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NTSB asks why Cosco Busan ...

NTSB asks why Cosco Busan ...
THE US National Transportation Safety Board hearings on the Cosco Busan casualty in San Francisco Bay last November have put the spotlight on the decision to set sail in dense fog.

NTSB asks why Cosco Busan sailed in fog

THE US National Transportation Safety Board hearings on the Cosco Busan casualty in San Francisco Bay last November have put the spotlight on the decision to set sail in dense fog.

The full vessel traffic system transcript of the incident reveals several layers of confusion in crucial communications between John Cota, the local pilot handling the ship, and the ship"s Chinese crew, as well as between the crew and US coast guard boarding the vessel.

The central issue appears to be Mr Cota"s confusion about his location in the moments before the ship sideswiped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The facts that he expressed regret for having sailed in foggy conditions and said ?sorry for misunderstanding the chart? have become a particular focus of attention.

Mr Cota, who faces federal charges of criminal negligence and environmental law violations related to the spill, was subpoenaed to testify before the NTSB but refused. He has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

The pilot has previously maintained in interviews with the NTSB that the apology he offered the master was not tantamount to a statement of wrongdoing, and that he had asked the crew repeatedly about the symbols on the charts.

Mr Cota told the NTSB he had repeatedly asked the master to locate the bridge on the electonic chart.

The VTS transcript record appears to indicate that the pilot and crew talked at length about the crew"s ability to give him a clear radar picture. In the event, the pilot appeared to think that, based on what he understood to be the correct data, the ship would pass between the bridge"s towers.

The crew was changed two weeks before the incident, and the review did not touch on its familiarity with equipment on board. Whether the shipowner was in communication with the crew about the decision to sail was also not addressed.

Rear Admiral Craig Bone, the top USCG commander in California, suggested human factors and errors made by the pilot as well as shipmaster contributed to the incident.

At least four other deep-draught ships in the vicinity on November 7 decided it was more prudent to wait until visibility improved, Adml Bone noted.

Nagarajan Subramania, general manager of Fleet Management, the Hong Kong agent for the Cosco Busan"s owner at the time of the accident, testified at the NTSB hearing that safe passage was Mr Cota"s responsibility.

?He is the local expert, he is licensed by the local authority, he knows the area way better ? you trust the pilot because he is the local expert,? said Mr Subramania.

In another twist to the case, interests involved in the incident have sought to highlight that Mr Cota was convicted of driving while intoxicated in 1999, and was taking prescription medications which are alleged to have had the potential to impair his cognitive abilities.
Source: Lloyd's List

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