The California state commission overseeing marine pilotage on San Francisco Bay issued a report this week supporting one pilot's contention that another pilot attacked him with a fire ax in May aboard a pilot boat 11 miles off the Golden Gate Bridge.

However, both the state Board of Pilot Commissioners and the Coast Guard said they were powerless to suspend the attacker's license on grounds of misconduct, because the incident did not occur while he was piloting a vessel.After concurring with Dennis Plant that he had been attacked by Herbert Rosen on the morning of May 31, the state agency sought to have Mr. Rosen's license suspended on another basis, saying that he is medically unfit for duty given this and other squabbles he has been involved in.

But a medical professional, who was asked by the commission to determine whether "in view of his conduct in these past incidents, (Mr. Rosen) poses a significant threat to himself or those around him," certified in August that Mr. Rosen is fit for duty.

Mr. Rosen was taken off administrative leave from the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association and resumed piloting on Aug. 30. The commission closed the case but is reviewing its regulations on pilots that have been barred from certain ships and mandatory retirement age.

"We looked for anyway we could to act within our regulations to deal with this as a misconduct case, but it is beyond the scope of our regulations," said Pat Moloney, the commission's executive director.


The commission said a remark by Mr. Plant about Mr. Rosen's Jewish heritage was what sparked the incident, even though the two pilots had already been arguing for some time that morning.

According to the commission's report, the argument began after Mr. Plant was forced by a schedule change to pilot the North Slope, an Exxon tanker arriving later that morning. The North Slope would ordinarily have fallen to Mr. Rosen in the pilots' rotation schedule, but Exxon has barred Mr. Rosen and at least five other San Francisco bar pilots from piloting its vessels.

The change meant that Mr. Plant would have to wait on the pilot boat longer and handle a longer and more complicated job than the containership he was originally scheduled to pilot. It also meant that he would have to miss a pilots' association committee meeting that afternoon on salary increases, an issue in which he is deeply involved.

According to the report, Mr. Plant expressed his irritation at having to wait for the Exxon ship simply because Mr. Rosen had been barred.

"According to Plant, when Rosen laughed it off, Plant commented that Rosen was barred from numerous other ships, thus placing an unfair burden on the remaining pilots," the report said.

Mr. Rosen has been barred from several ships calling in San Francisco Bay, including most tankers and certain bulk carriers, according to the commission. The commission said that his relations with ships' masters, not pilot error, were largely responsible for Mr. Rosen being barred.


Mr. Rosen, in turn, accused Mr. Plant of cheating on his medical entrance exam and being admitted into the Bar Pilots Association even though he had a condition, lupus, that forced him to take an extended leave from piloting soon after becoming licensed.

At some point the two took their discussion to the lower level of the 85- foot pilot boat, where pilots rest while waiting for their ships.

There, the issue of Mr. Rosen's Jewish lineage came up. In the report, Mr. Plant recalled saying something like this to Mr. Rosen: "You've got a problem. You think everybody in the world is against you. I grew up in Oakland with black guys who, like you, feel persecuted - people plotting against you. I am not your enemy. You have this persecution thing about being Jewish."

Mr. Rosen's version was different. He told the commission's investigators that he didn't recall any details of the discussion until Mr. Plant said something like, "What's this Jewish thing with you?"

After that, Mr. Rosen told Mr. Plant that "you are my mortal enemy" and that the conversation was over. Mr. Rosen repeatedly told investigators, "I cannot forgive the Jewish thing."

"I don't think there is any doubt that he took it as an anti-Semitic remark," said John Meadows, Mr. Rosen's attorney.

In the report, Mr. Plant said Mr. Rosen "appeared to come unglued" after the comment was made. Mr. Plant denied that his comment was anti-Semitic.


Mr. Plant started up the ladder to the main deck, and here the two stories diverge again.

Mr. Plant said that when he was partway up the ladder he heard a noise and turned around to see Mr. Rosen swing a fire ax at him from the landing below.

According to the report, Mr. Plant said the blade struck him in the right arm, but did not injure him because the ladder area is narrow and thus didn't

allow Mr. Rosen to make a full swing. Mr. Plant said he grabbed the ax and pinned Mr. Rosen to the bulkhead while yelling to crewmembers.

According to Mr. Rosen's first account to investigators, when Mr. Plant was partway up the ladder he took a swing at him with his fist, and Mr. Rosen knocked a fire ax out of its holder as he raised his hands to defend himself. He said he picked up the ax, whereupon Mr. Plant yelled "Ax! Ax!" and ran up the stairs.

Subsequently, according to the report, Mr. Rosen said he never picked up the ax, but still later he said he had held the ax, though only to prevent it

from falling on his feet.

The commission was unpersuaded, saying it "found Capt. Rosen's version of the incident was not credible."