Ship Owner Seeks Indemnity From SF Bay Spill

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – The owner of the ship that plowed into the San Francisco Bay Bridge in 2007 and spilled more than 53,000 gallons of oil claims it shouldn’t be held liable for the $80 million clean-up costs. Regal Stone says the state-licensed pilot was not medically fit to steer the Cosco Busan, as he had recently been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

     The Hong Kong-based ship owner sued the state Board of Pilot Commissioners in Superior Court for alleged negligence in training, licensing and supervising Pilot John J. Cota. It says the board renewed Cota’s license in January 2007, despite knowing about his medical condition.
     Cota was investigated in 2004 for “acting enraged and irrational when piloting a United States Navy Warship,” the lawsuit states. “The Board of Pilot Commissioners found Pilot Cota to be experiencing a ‘medical’ issue requiring independent psychological evaluation.”
     The owner seeks indemnity from the state’s lawsuit, saying California law required it to use a pilot licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the state. The state should have done its due diligence before renewing Cota’s license, Regal Stone claims.
     The Nov. 7 spill mucked up more than 100 miles of coastline, killed more than 1,800 birds and polluted hundreds of acres of eelgrass beds, which serve as nursery grounds and habitat for marine animals.
     The plaintiff is represented by Joseph Walsh II with the San Francisco-based firm Keesal, Young & Logan.

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