Pilot of ship that hit Bay Bridge could lose license


An incident review committee for the state's Board of Pilot Commissioners issued the report in advance of the board's meeting this morning on the case of Capt. Guy Kleess, who was piloting the 752-foot Overseas Reymar when it struck a fender on a tower of the bridge's western span at about 11:15 a.m. on Jan. 7.

No oil spilled from the boat and no one on board was injured. The incident caused about $1.6 million in damage to the ship and bridge fender, according to the report.

The report concluded that Kleess, who changed course at the last minute, lacked awareness of the situation and "failed to exercise the diligence which other pilots similarly situated would ordinarily have exercised."

It cited his apparent reliance "exclusively on one piece of equipment," a 10-cm radar, while passing under the bridge in conditions that included poor visibility due to fog.

In addition, the report found, he failed to adequately communicate with personnel on the ship and authorities who control boat traffic around the bridge.

Kleess has had three minor incidents on his record since being licensed by the board in 2005, but those incidents did not result in any restrictions on his license.

The commissioners this morning were briefed on the report by Allen Garfinkle, executive director of the board, who played an audio recording from the vessel at the time the boat hit the bridge.

According to Garfinkle, Kleess was talking on a satellite phone until shortly before the accident. Just afterward, he could be heard on the recording saying "Oh s---."

Garfinkle called Kleess "complacent" and said he was responsible for the accident because he "relied on his past routine" rather than taking that day's conditions into account.

Kleess' attorney Rex Clack said, "a pilot should not be judged by 20-20 hindsight" and urged the board to reject the report's recommendation.

The commissioners were meeting in closed session late this morning to consider the case and will rule on whether to file an accusation for suspension or revocation of Kleess' license.

If that accusation is filed, a formal hearing will follow with the state's Office of Administrative Hearings.

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