Update 3:30 p.m.
An oil tanker struck the Bay Bridge "Echo" tower on Monday, but as of now the incident does not appear to have serious consequences. The tanker "Overseas Raymar" struck the bridge about 11:20 a.m. while headed out to sea after a drop-off in Martinez. The tanker was not carrying oil at the time.
Highlights from a joint press conference held by the Coast Guard and Caltrans...
- No leakage of any type from the vessel has been detected as of present.
- The vesssel was double-hulled. The outer hull was crushed, but there is no evidence of any damage to the inner hull.
- The bridge tower's fendering system worked as expected, sustaining damage but protecting the bridge itself, which appeared to go undamaged. The system has been in place since 1936 but was upgraded a few years ago.
- The collision was on the starboard side of the vessel. Caltrans called it a "scrape."
- The crew of the tanker will undergo drug and alcohol testing, as required by federal law.
- Visibility was about a quarter-mile at the time of the collision.
Update 6:55 p.m. Paul Rogers, managing editor of KQED Science, had the following to say to KQED's Stephanie Martin tonight...
This is a very serious accident. These oil tankers are roughly the size of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker. They carry millions of gallons of oil, and if that ship had hit the bridge any harder and broken open a hull, even if it was just bunker fuel, you would have had a large spill in the bay. Luckily this appears to be a minor grazing but I think it's really setting off a lot of alarm bells among environmentalists and maritime safety folks who thought we had improved a lot of safety after the 2008 Cosco Busan accident...
There were some recommendations put in, like people not sail when there's less than a half-mile of visibility. This morning there was a quarter-mile of visibility, so a big question is why was this pilot and this captain sailing.
Another question is what is the record of this pilot. The San Francisco Bar Pilot Association is not releasing his name. They say he's been a pilot for eight years, we don't know if he's had accidents in the past.