The 901-foot-long Cosco Busan, owned by a Hong Kong-based company, sideswiped the Bay Bridge in November 2007. Two fuel tanks ruptured and more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled into the San Francisco Bay.
Investigators told the National Transportation Safety Board Wednesday that the ship's Chinese captain and pilot had little discussion about how the pilot planned to guide the ship through dangerous local waters. For example, the safety officials said there was no discussion of the ship's proper speed or extra precautions that should be taken because of dense fog.
Investigators said the captain's lack of experience with the bay made him more dependent upon the pilot to guide the ship. Language differences also contributed to their lack of communication, and perhaps cultural differences did as well, with the captain less willing to question the authority of somebody with superior knowledge of local waters, investigators said.
Meanwhile, the pilot, John Cota of Petaluma, also committed several errors, including failure to interpret radar images and effectively question officials monitoring vessel traffic when questions arose about his course. Yet, the captain, Mao Cai Sun, did not step in and take control despite troubling signals. Staff and board members seemed torn over which of the two bore the greatest responsibility for the crash.
Mark Rosenker, the acting chairman of the NTSB, said a competent captain would have demanded more information from the pilot before allowing the ship to leave its pier.