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Oil tanker strikes San Francisco's Bay Bridge

Authorities say the 752-foot Overseas Reymar sailing in fog struck a tower just west of Yerba Buena Island as it headed out to sea. No one was injured.

January 07, 2013|By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
  • The empty oil tanker Overseas Reymar crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. A portion of the tanker’s outer hull appeared to be crushed, authorities said.
The empty oil tanker Overseas Reymar crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland… (Jeff Chiu, Associated Press )

SAN FRANCISCO — Officials on Monday were assessing the damage after an oil tanker crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, with initial reports indicating the vessel did not appear to be leaking.

The 752-foot Overseas Reymar hit the tower just west of Yerba Buena Island as it headed to sea after delivering cargo, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Lansing said at a news conference.

Lansing said fog had diminished visibility at the time of the accident to about a quarter of a mile, but that there are no sight restrictions on vessels passing under the bridge in that location.

A portion of the tanker's outer hull appeared to be crushed, Lansing said, while tests indicated that the inner hull was intact. Coast Guard investigators and inspectors said they would continue to test the tanks to ensure that they had not been compromised. The ship's pilot and captain will undergo drug and alcohol testing, which is standard protocol under federal law, Lansing said.

"Initial findings are that there is not any spill or discharge of product into the water," Lansing said. "Everyone on the vessel is safe."

Traffic on the bridge was never disrupted, and the California Department of Transportation responded to the damaged tower within 20 minutes of the accident, spokesman Bart Ney said. Inspectors quickly concluded that only a portion of one bridge footing's wood-and-plastic fender was in need of repair.

"This is basically a scrape for the Bay Bridge," Ney said. "The fender system worked as designed."

Charlie Goodyear, a spokesman for the San Francisco Bar Pilots Assn., said fog was heavy at the time of the collision, and a strong ebb tide was in effect, although he did not know "if either condition contributed to the accident."

Capt. Peter McIsaac, president of the association, said the blow, close to the ship's stern on the starboard side, was well above the water line and appeared to be "glancing." The tanker was carrying no petroleum cargo.

The association declined to identify the pilot, but Goodyear said he had been licensed since 2005 and was "an experienced mariner."

Monday's accident came a little more than five years after the Cosco Busan, a container ship, struck the neighboring tower, spilling 53,000 gallons of oil into the bay.

That spill, which resulted in $10 million in criminal penalties and a landmark $44-million civil settlement, killed thousands of birds, devastated the bay's herring spawn, sullied miles of coastal habitat and closed beaches to fishing and recreation.

The Overseas Reymar was built in 2004 and was sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, according to Vessel Finder. While the tanker did not appear to be leaking, precautions were in effect.

Lansing said the ship's operators had been ordered to obtain 4,000 feet of boom in case oil containment was necessary. And the state Department of Fish and Wildlife dispatched a game warden, environmental scientists and oil spill prevention specialists to the scene, spokeswoman Alexia Retallack said.

lee.romney@latimes.com

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