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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Capt. John Cota Charged

The pilot of the tanker that spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into San Fransisco Bay has been charged with two felony counts of lying to Coast Guard officials about his prescription drug use. Originally, he was facing misdemeanor charges.

This ups the stakes for professional mariners and proves how far authorities are willing to go to placate the wishes of an outraged public and media. Again, as I've mentioned before, it's knee-jerk politics.

I'm not saying Cota should be given a free ride, because he's clearly guilty of something, but the only reason he's being charged with these felonies is because his license application -- as does all our applications -- has a statement or caveat written on it whereby the applicant's signature attests to the authenticity and accuracy of what has been listed above it. It's part of the Certification and Oath in Section VI, which reads as follows:

Section VI - Certification and Oath Certification (Mandatory) Whoever, in any manner within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States, knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry, violates the U. S. Criminal Code at Title 18 U. S. C. 1001 which subjects the violator to Federal prosecution and possible incarceration, fine or both. I certify that the information on this application is true and correct and that I have not submitted any application of any type to the Officer-in- Charge, Marine Inspection in any port and been rejected or denied within 12 months of this application.

Until now, I am not aware of any charges by the Coast Guard brought against a professional mariner for lying on license application.

What does this mean for professional mariners? It means the Coast Guard will be scrutinizing upgrades and new applications even more thoroughly than they do now. It might mean personalized follow-up investigations similar to what they do for employment with a high security federal job, e.g. Sea-Lift Command, whereby they send an FBI guy to talk to your neighbors, associates and teachers.

It also means any accident or casualty you are involved in will bring the equivalent of a professional proctology exam to your doorstep.

So don't have any accidents, and don't have any skeletons in the closet.

-seabgb

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