Oil spill pilot's license suspended

Dec. 2, 2007 at 1:08 AM

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- A California commission suspended the license Saturday of the pilot who guided a Chinese container ship into a bridge in San Francisco Bay.

Capt. John Cota could lose his license for good once an investigation into the accident has been completed, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Nov. 7 crash ripped two of the Cosco Busan's fuel tanks open, spilling 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay.

Cota is a veteran pilot with 26 years of experience in the bay. But he has had past problems, including a reprimand last year when a ship ran aground in the San Joaquin River.

The state pilot commission approved the suspension 6-0. Commission President Knute Michael Miller cautioned that it "should not be viewed as prejudgment of pilot error."

Cota's lawyer, John Meadows, said the ship's captain gave the pilot erroneous information and the radar was not working properly.

Thousands of birds have died from the effects of the spill, which fouled the bay and coastal waters for miles to the north and south of the Golden Gate.

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