Federal government sues ship owner, pilot in SF Bay oil spill
Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ” The federal government on Friday accused a ship pilot and the owners of the container ship Cosco Busan of breaking environmental laws when the ship struck a bridge support in San Francisco Bay, spilling 58,000 gallons of toxic oil.
The Justice Department filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court here, alleging that the National Marine Sanctuary Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Park System Resource Protection Act were violated when the vessel struck a bridge support Nov.
It names as defendants both Regal Stone Ltd. and Fleet Management Ltd., both of which are listed as owners, operators and managers of the Cosco Busan and both of which, according to the suit, are “believed to be headquartered in Hong Kong.”
The suit also names Capt. John Cota, who was at the helm when the collision took place, and the Shipowners Insurance and Guaranty Co. Ltd., which insured the ship.
The government sought unspecified damages to compensate taxpayers for the federal response to the spill. It said the sum of those damages “is not known and shall be established according to proof at the time of trial.”
It accused the defendants of “fault, negligence and breach of federal safety and operating regulations.”
The government said that oil spill had affected the Gulf of Farrallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore and other protected federal waters.
Bermuda-based Sigco, as the insurance company is known, was founded specifically to respond to claims under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the government’s lawsuit said its liability may be capped by law.
Regal Stone and Fleet Management are liable “without limitation,” the suit states.
Also Friday, the state Board of Pilot Commissioners suspended Cota’s pilot license during the several investigations under way.
The board explained its action by saying it was “protocol when there is reason to believe public interest requires it during an ongoing investigation,” but said the suspension “should not be viewed as a prejudgment of pilot error.”
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