updated 3/27/2008 1:57:33 PM ET 2008-03-27T17:57:33

The Cosco Busan was the only big ship to get under way the morning it sideswiped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, as at least four other large vessels waited out the heavy fog, the Coast Guard said Thursday.

The decision of the Cosco Busan’s crew and pilot to get moving despite the weather is a focus of the Coast Guard’s investigation into the Nov. 7 collision that spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the Bay’s fragile ecosystem.

With visibility less than a quarter-mile, pilots and crew on the other four ships “deemed it prudent not to get under way until visibility improved,” Rear Adm. Craig Bone, the Coast Guard commander for California, told reporters Thursday.

“These human decisions are critical elements to causal factors of this casualty,” Bone said.

Bone also disclosed that the Coast Guard has instituted a new policy in the Port of San Francisco prohibiting large ships from traveling in certain areas of the port where visibility is less than a half-mile.

The ongoing Coast Guard investigation is one of several. Bone disclosed some information learned and preliminary steps being taken, but declined to reveal other details or assign blame for the decision to start the ship that morning.

The Cosco Busan’s pilot, Capt. John Cota, has been charged with criminal negligence and breaking environmental laws and pleaded not guilty earlier this month. In citing human error, Bone noted that Cota wasn’t the only one aboard the ship that morning.

A report from the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department is due out next month and the National Transportation Safety Board is also holding a hearing next month. A Justice Department investigation is ongoing, along with congressional probes.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments