The bar pilot in control of the tanker that struck the Bay Bridge on Jan. 7 has the highest incident rate over the three years for which such records are available, according to a San Francisco Examiner analysis of state documents.
Between 2009 and 2011, Guy Kleess had three documented incidents while piloting ships on San Francisco Bay and in the Sacramento and Stockton areas. He also is one of only a handful of pilots who work those waterways who had more than one incident in that time frame, records from the California Board of Pilot Commissioners show.
Under state law, bar pilots must guide vessels longer than 100 feet when they enter, exit or traverse San Francisco, Suisun, San Pablo and Monterey bays. Some also help navigate the waterways to and from the Sacramento and Stockton ports. The roughly 55 pilots licensed locally help navigate about 8,000 vessels annually.
After the Cosco Busan crash in 2007, when the ship struck the Bay Bridge and dumped 53,000 gallons of oil into the Bay, state lawmakers passed legislation that required more transparent reporting about bar pilots operating in regional waterways, including yearly reports about shipping incidents such as groundings and collisions.
The Board of Pilot Commissioners now reports incidents to the state Legislature. If a bar pilot had an incident from 2009 on, the reports also detail previous incidents in which the pilot was involved.
Kleess was supposed to guide the Overseas Reymar under the Bay Bridge and out to sea Jan. 7 when the empty oil tanker struck a tower support on the span. Before that incident, Kleess had three others between 2009 and 2011, two of which were deemed pilot error.
In October 2009, a tanker Kleess was helping navigate on the Sacramento River was temporarily grounded. He was not found to be at fault, but was ordered to take practice trips on the river. Two days later, a ship Kleess was helping dock in Stockton damaged a catwalk attached to a mooring. The incident was deemed pilot error. And then in May 2010, a tug attached to a ship Kleess was helping navigate in the Inner Richmond Harbor struck the bottom.
The third incident was ruled pilot error, but there was no action taken against Kleess because at the time he was supervising a trainee.
Board of Pilot Commissioners officials, the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association and Kleess’ attorney have all called the incidents minor.
Asked about Kleess, who became a pilot in 2005, having the most incidents between 2009 and 2011, his attorney Rex Clack said, “According to the pilot commission, Capt. Kleess has a very good record. And we agree with the pilot commission.”
Will Shuck, a Caltrans spokesman speaking on behalf of the commission, said, “Capt. Kleess held a valid license and was authorized to do the duties he was undertaking.”
The San Francisco Bar Pilots Association did not return requests for comment about Kleess’ record and the overall system for tracking pilot incidents.
State documents show that three other pilots had two incidents each between 2009 and 2011, and others had at least one. One pilot recorded seven incidents, but it was over a 24-year period. Another had eight over 39 years.
At least one of them is now retired.
The investigation into the Overseas Reymar crash is ongoing, with the Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board and Board of Pilot Commissioners conducting probes.
Incidents in area waterways
|Name||Years as pilot||Incidents||Average per year|
|Raymond R. *||7||2||.29|
Note: Reports of questionable incidents were removed from totals
*One event deemed a non-incident