News Column

Tanker Ship Strikes Bay Bridge Tower

Jan 7, 2013

A 750-foot oil tanker collided with a tower of the Bay Bridge Monday morning and sustained damage, but no oil has been detected in San Francisco Bay.

"We're still keeping an eye out to make sure. We're keeping our fingers crossed for a best-case scenario," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Barry Bena. "But as of right now, initial reports from the pilot, the Coast Guard and local agencies show no pollution has hit the water."

The ship, the Overseas Rey Mar, is flagged under the Marshall Islands. As of about 1 p.m. PST, it was sitting at Anchorage 7, just south of the Bay Bridge. It was unclear how much oil the ship, which Bena said was outbound, was carrying.

Bena said that the extent of the damage to the vessel is unclear, and he doesn't know yet what caused the collision. He said the "Echo Tower" of the Bay Bridge -- which sits between San Francisco and Treasure Island -- was hit by the ship, with the fender of the tower sustaining some damage.

He said Caltrans is investigating how significantly the bridge was damaged. Also, the Coast Guard has a helicopter in the air and a cutter in the water.

Bena said visibility was at about a quarter-mile at 11:18 a.m. when the accident occurred.

The accident is similar to an incident that caused the last major oil spill in San Francisco Bay.

On Nov. 7, 2007, the Cosco Busan, a cargo ship, hit the "delta tower" of the Bay Bridge, ripping a huge gash in its side and spilling more than 53,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel. The incident blackened miles of coastline and bay shore, and the ship's pilot, John Cota, was sentenced to 10 months in jail.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Cota's performance was degraded from prescription medications. In 2011, authorities announced a $44 million settlement with the ship's owner and operator.

Source: (c)2013 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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