Monday, June 1, 2009

Cosco Busan Pilot "tripping on meds"

The Maritime has a post Prisoners of the Cosco Busan which links to an article from the East Bay Express. The focus of the article is the plight of crew members detained by authorities after the incident but also of interest is the reporter's narrative of the incident itself.

From the article we learn that John Cota, was a "brusque, unhealthy man with a hot temper" and he conned the Cosco Busan into a bridge tower. Brusque means "abrupt and curt in manner,or discourteously blunt."

My experience is that there often is a relationship between a pilot's manners and his skill level - the more rude and arrogant the pilot the less skilled, not always of course but often enough.

Here are some excerpts from the article.

The 59-year-old bar pilot assigned to the Cosco Busan, John Cota, was a brusque, unhealthy man with a hot temper, an alcohol problem, and a history of driving under the influence.

Like other bar pilots in San Francisco Bay, but unlike pilots in other harbors, Cota wasn't required to carry a laptop computer laden with navigation equipment. Instead, he relied on the Cosco Busan's array of onboard electronic maps and radars. But he struggled to use them.

In the two months before he swaggered onto the Cosco Busan, Cota filled prescriptions for Darvon, Valium, Talwin, Imitrex, Ativan, Provigil, Zoloft, Lomotil, and Compazine, or their equivalents.

Cota didn't realize that he was lost. The northwest-bound ship was drifting too far west across the face of the bridge as Cota tried to line it up to pass through the Delta-Echo span. Disregarding the radar and unable to see through the fog, the pilot relied on the ship's electronic map.

In accounting for Cota's perplexing confusion, NTSB investigators eventually concluded that "the higher-level cognitive effort and perceptual skills" needed to interpret the Cosco Busan's standardized radars and maps "were precisely those capabilities that would have been degraded"by the drugs that Cota had possessed. None of Cota's difficulties using the radar or reading the map would have been expected of any pilot with sober and effective cognitive functions, the investigators concluded. In other words, they concluded, he was tripping on prescription meds.

Most pilots are polite and professional, but perhaps the rude ones are the ones that bear closer watching.


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