Pilot of Tanker That Hit Bridge Had 3 Other Incidents

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The pilot of an empty oil tanker that struck the Bay Bridge on Monday morning had three minor incidents in his file since being licensed in 2005, according to state records.

Guy Kleess has been identified as the pilot of the Overseas Reymar, the 752-foot tanker that was headed out to sea at about 11:20 a.m. Monday when it struck a fender on the most eastern tower of the bridge's western span.

No spill was reported in the Bay and everyone aboard the vessel was safe. About 30 to 40 feet of the bridge tower's fender was damaged by the boat but the bridge has been deemed safe, Caltrans officials said. Kleess was found to be involved in three incidents in 2009 and 2010, according to records from the state's Board of Pilot Commissioners.

A vessel piloted by Kleess ran aground in the Sacramento River on Aug. 27, 2009, while two days later a boat he piloted struck a wooden pylon at a berth in Stockton. Then on May 26, 2010, he ran aground again with a vessel in the Richmond Inner Harbor.

While additional practice trips were required after the first two incidents, no restrictions were placed on Kleess' license by the Board of Pilot Commissioners.

Board executive director Capt. Allen Garfinkle said, "I would classify the incidents as minor." Pilot error is being investigated as a possible cause of Monday's allision with the Bay Bridge, according to officials with the U.S. Coast Guard.

There was about a quarter-mile of visibility in the Bay at the time of the accident, authorities said.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced this morning that the agency is also investigating the incident, which it classified as a "major marine casualty" because it caused more than $500,000 in property damage, NTSB officials said.

The agency also investigated the 2007 Cosco Busan spill, in which a tanker hit a fender on another tower of the bridge's western span, causing more than 53,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel to leak into the Bay.

The Marshall Islands-registered Overseas Reymar, owned by OSG Ship Management Inc., remained anchored this evening east of Alcatraz Island while the accident is investigated.

The ship had dropped its load of fuel before striking the Bay Bridge. Kleess, the pilot, graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., in 1976, according to a bio released today by the San Francisco Bar Pilots' Association.

He worked at Exxon Shipping Co. from 1976 to 1990.

At Exxon, he sailed as a third mate and third engineer, second mate, chief mate, and captain.

After completing the SF bar pilot training program in 2005, he has worked in part as a river pilot for the ports of Stockton and Sacramento since 2009.

He has made 1,160 trips as a pilot since 2005, according to the association.


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