Tanker Pilot May Lose License Over Bridge Allision

Published Apr 5, 2013 2:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The California Board of Pilot Commissioners unanimously voted to suspend or revoke the license of the pilot of an empty oil tanker that allided with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the beginning of the year.

A formal accusation against Guy Kleess has been filed after the incident investigation found pilot error and recommended punitive action against him.

According to the Associated Press, the case now goes before an administrative law judge, who will hold a trial to hear evidence and determine whether Kleess should have his pilot's license suspended or revoked. The board will then vote on whether to accept the judge's ruling. For now, Kleess' license is temporarily suspended until the case is resolved to protect the public interest. A hearing is to be mandatorily held within 40 days.

The committee determined that Kleess lost situational awareness, failed to communicate effectively with the crew, and failed to utilize the resources at his disposal during the incident, among other things. Kleess’ legal representation noted that the pilot met the standards of his profession in difficult circumstances, but did not dispute any allegations made by the committee.

The investigative report also found that Kleess changed course shortly before the allision due to reduced visibility and the discovery that a radar beacon between two towers of the bridge was not working. He was rested and had been off-duty for 39 hours. Kleess and the crew tested negative for alcohol and drug use.

Kleess had previously lost his pilot license for about two months in 2010-2011, after going on medical leave. Board records also indicate he was involved in three previous accidents, and was held responsible for two and ordered to undergo more training.

The 752-foot Overseas Reymar oil tanker hit a western-span tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, resulting in $220,000 in ship damage and as much as $1.4 million in damage to the bridge. The bridge remained open to vehicle traffic. No one was injured and no fuel was spilled.