Tugboat rams Martinez refinery gas pipes


Thankfully, this was not an environmental disaster, but based on what the Coast Guard is learning regarding the alcohol that may be involved, it may become a criminal matter.

The Coast Guard confirms that the master of the tugboat that slammed into the wharf of the Tesoro Refinery refused Coast Guard alcohol testing in the hours after the accident.

"We're frankly very disappointed, if that's the case," says Mike Marcy, a spokesman for Tesoro.

The Independence, now docked in Benicia, struck the wharf just after midnight. Initial reports were that 1,500 gallons of gasoline spilled into the bay, but the amount was later determined to be much less when investigators found a large pipeline had not ruptured.

"We discovered the integrity of that line was never at risk, but that a small one half inch diameter product sampling line had been pierced and had released five gallons of gasoline," says Marcy.

The 78-foot tug, owned by AmNav Maritime Services, was on its way from Pittsburg to Benicia, piloted by Captain Brian Stanley. It veered 25 to 50 yards off course and slammed into the brightly lit wharf.

"He's an experienced mariner, licensed by the Coast Guard and has been on the bay for a number of years," says Milt Merritt of AmNav Maritime Services.

According to the Coast Guard, Stanley consented to a breathalyzer test given by AmNav, but refused another by the Coast Guard, which determined AmNav's testing equipment was outdated.

In the meantime, cleanup crews spent the morning making sure there was no gasoline left in the water. It does not appear any wildlife in the area was harmed by the small spill.

"I do know that Fish and Game went out right after the spill to look for signs of harmed wildlife and didn't see any. It would appear that it did evaporate and dissolve in the water pretty quickly," says Baykeeper Deb Self.

As a precaution, three boats and an 800 foot boom will stay in the water around the damaged area in the wharf to contain and contain any gasoline that might be spilled in the area. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that another crew member did test above the legal limit of alcohol. If alcohol is involved the crew could face criminal charges.

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