This week a federal judge finally sentenced the ship pilot to 10 months in prison for his responsibility in the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay that caused widespread bird deaths.
Capt. John Cota, 61, of Petaluma, CA is the first ship’s pilot in U.S. maritime history to be sent to prison for a shipping accident.
During a brief statement at the end of the hourlong hearing in Federal court Friday, Cota apologized to the judge and the public for the harm he had caused.
“Pilots view themselves as protectors of the environment,” he was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle story. “That’s why it is painful to have played a role in an accident that has damaged it.”
The ship’s pilot was helping guide the Cosco Busan container ship out of San Francisco Bay when it struck the SF Bay Bridge in heavy fog on an early morning in November 2007. More than 50,000 gallons of bunker crude spilled into the bay and spread to area beaches.
In sentencing Cota, Judge Illston told him the jail time reflects lawmakers efforts to punish criminally negiligent parties following the horrific Exxon Valdez spill.
Following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska, the tanker’s captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was fined only $50,000 but did’t spent any time in jail.
During the Cosco Busan spill thousands of birds were killed by the fast spreading spill. IBRRC working with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 420 birds that were returned to the wild.
Read more: San Francisco Chronicle story
Also see: After the Cosco Busan spill