Cosco Busan crew lied to investigators 

New details of misleading statements made by Cosco Busan crewmembers to investigators in the wake of the container ship’s November crash into the Bay Bridge and subsequent oil spill were made public Wednesday.

One senior crewmember forged documents given to officials investigating the spill; another senior officer was chomping down breakfast when the ship crashed into the bridge but initially hid that fact from investigators, the filings show.

The U.S. Department of Justice in July charged shipping company Fleet Management with making misleading statements to investigators. The company faces over $3 million in fines if convicted.

One officer, Shun Biao Zhao, failed to draft a passage plan for the ship’s journey from the Port of Oakland to South Korea before the accident and then wrote the plan one day after the crash at the instruction of other company officials, according to the filing by attorney Jonathan Howden, who is representing Zhao and three other crewmembers.

“Other documents also may have been dated or created after the fact,” Howden wrote.

The crewmember based the forged passage plan on another Fleet Management-managed vessel’s passage plan but failed to erase references to Brisbane, Australia. After a U.S. Coast Guard official asked why the plan mentioned Australia, Zhao erased the references and forged other crewmembers signatures, according to the filing.

The Hong Kong-based shipping company and Petaluma pilot Capt. John Cota are also facing federal misdemeanor environmental charges related to the Nov. 7 accident, which caused an oil spill that killed wildlife, closed beaches, delayed the fishing season and poisoned the Bay.

The company failed to properly train the six-person crew, it is alleged.

Recordings reveal that, on the morning of the accident, Cota and the crew struggled to use the ship’s navigation equipment. Fleet Management attorney Marc Greenberg in court has claimed that was caused by Cota’s history of prescription “drug use and abuse.”

The crewmembers are scheduled to be interviewed in October for a trial scheduled to begin in November. They have already been interviewed multiple times by investigators.

Howden’s documents were filed as part of an effort to convince the court to allow the men to return home to China.

“They feel just like anybody would feel if they were detained in a foreign country for ten months,” Howden told the Examiner.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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