The pilot of a container ship that spilled more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil into the San Francisco Bay in 2007 has lost a bid to sue the U.S. Coast Guard for reinstatement of his mariner’s license.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco on Monday dismissed a lawsuit John Cota filed against the Coast Guard February to challenge its refusal to restore his license.
White said Cota hadn’t proved that any of his procedural rights were violated when the Coast Guard declined to reinstate his license in 2011 and then rejected his administrative appeal the following year.
Cota, 66, of Petaluma, was the pilot of the Cosco Busan when it struck a fender of a Bay Bridge pier in heavy fog on Nov. 7, 2007, and sustained a 212-foot-long gash through which the oil spilled into the bay.
The spill contaminated beaches, killed more than 2,500 birds and disrupted the fishing industry.
Cota pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco in 2009 to two misdemeanor environmental crimes, negligently polluting the bay and killing migratory birds, and was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
A National Transportation Safety Board report said the accident was the result of a combination of impaired cognitive performance by Cota because of prescription medicines he was taking; ineffective oversight by the ship’s captain; and poor communication between the captain and the pilot.
After the accident, Cota agreed to surrender his mariner’s license to the Coast Guard temporarily, but in 2010 sought to have it returned.
Asked whether Cota plans to appeal White’s dismissal of the lawsuit, his attorney, Leo Chanco, said, “Our client is presently considering his options.”
Julia Cheever, Bay City News