I-Team investigation into bar pilots gets physical


These are tense times at the San Francisco bar pilot office. Just after Noyes arrived at pier 9 a.m. to ask questions, bar pilot George Dowdle, even though he was not involved in Monday's accident, began cursing at Noyes.

Dan Noyes: "You pushing me?"
George Dowdle: "No, I'm not."
Dan Noyes: "OK, I'll call the cops, that's great. Let go."

Dowdle let go of the camera, and while Noyes called police, he struck again.

Dan Noyes (on phone): "I'm at Pier 9."
George Dowdle: "Excuse me."
Dan Noyes (on phone): "He's pushing me again."

The head of the bar pilots, Capt. Peter McIsaac, refused to talk about that or about the more important issue -- what mistakes lead to the Overseas Raymar hitting the Bay Bridge Monday morning?

His staff told the I-Team he was busy in meetings with the pilots' attorneys.

The I-Team dug further into the background of Guy Kleess, the bar pilot guiding the tanker at the time of the accident. We found three incidents -- In August 2009 Kleess grounded a bulk carrier on a sandbar in the Sacramento River. Two days later, he was unable to stop another ship and damaged a catwalk in Stockton. And in May 2010, he grounded a tugboat at the Richmond Inner Harbor.

The Board of Pilot Commissioners executive director told the I-Team that Kleess received additional training as a result of the first two incidents.

"Capt. Kleess did agree, stipulate, to riding to and from Sacramento with a more experienced pilot for four trips, two of those to be at night, two during the day and the Sacramento case, with ships with a draft deeper than 26 feet," Allen Garfinkle said.

The I-Team also found three addresses under the name of Guy Kleess -- one in San Francisco, one in Wyoming, and what appears to be his most current address in Maryland.

Bar pilots work one week on and one week off and they are known to trade shifts so they can have more time off in a row.

Dan Noyes: "I see that Capt. Kleess has a home in Maryland, so I wonder whether he had just flown in from his home in Maryland before getting on the ship."
Allen Garfinkle: "I have no idea, this is an ongoing investigation and those are details that will probably come out."

Michael Jacob, of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, represents the shipping industry, which has filed suit against the bar pilots to get information about the pilots' shifts and whether they may be fatigued.

Dan Noyes: "Is it a fair question to ask was he on a red eye the night before that run?"
Michael Jacob: "Absolutely, absolutely. We don't know when he came on shift or when he came off shift, or when he got on a ship or when he got off the ship."

In September, a judge ruled in favor of the shippers getting that information, but the bar pilots and the board have filed an appeal. The shippers say it's all about transparency.

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