Oil Tanker Nicks Bay Bridge, Memories of Cosco Busan

There was no environmental damage and everyone aboard was safe

A 750-foot oil tanker struck one of the Bay Bridge towers late Monday morning, and though there was no immediate major damage, the incident brought up immediate memories of the Cosco Busan.

The vessel, named the Overseas Reymar, struck the so-called "Echo Tower," or Tower 6, on the far east side  of the bridge's western span around 11:20 a.m., according to the Coast Guard. The visibility at the time was about a quarter mile. The vessel had made a stop in Martinez before the accident occurred.

At an afternoon news conference, Coast Guard Lt. Commander Shawn Lansing said there was no "spill or discharge into the water," and everyone aboard was safe.

Still, Lansing said, investigators are looking at the integrity of the ship, to make there is no extensive, internal structural damage.

Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said the ship damaged its own starboard-side fender system but there was no damage to the bridge itself.  The Coast Guard described the damage as a "crushing" of the ship's fender (seen in the image below to the right ).

But the most important thing to remember, Ney added emphatically: "The Bay Bridge is safe." He described the whole affair as a "scrape."

From the NBC Bay Area chopper, there was some visible damage to the base of the bottom floating portion of the concrete base of the bridge. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";}

The San Francisco Bar Pilot's Commission says the pilot on board was Guy Kleess. An experienced tanker captain who has worked as a bar pilot in the bay since 2007.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, state records show in 2009 Kleess ran aground a 550-foot cargo ship in the Sacramento shipping channel and crashed a 600-foot cargo ship into a catwalk near Stockton. In 2010, he also was found at fault when a tugboat he was sailing ran aground in the Richmond inner harbor. A spokesperson for the Bar Pilot's Association says Kleess passed an alcohol test and drug test results are pending. Kleess is scheduled to be interviewed by the Coast Guard Tuesday.

While this incident did not appear to wreak much havoc, the proximity of a tanker so close the Bay Bridge brought up immediate memories of the Cocso Busan.

That huge spill occurred on Nov. 7, 2007, when more than 53,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the San Francisco bay, after the container ship, the Cosco Busan, struck the Delta Tower of the Bay Bridge in thick fog.

Investigators in that case found that pilot John Cota was impaired from his use of prescription pharmaceuticals. He was sentenced to ten months in federal prison. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, releasing a flow of funds to clean up the major environmental damage.

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