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Attorney Rex Clack: Speculation of "Pilot Error" Aboard the Overseas Reymar Is Premature

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (Marketwire) -- 01/09/13 -- Continued speculation and news reports that "pilot error" was a cause in the allision of the Overseas Reymar with a tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is highly premature at this very early stage of the government's investigation, said Rex Clack, attorney for Captain Guy Kleess, the San Francisco pilot aboard the tanker at the time of the incident. "Any speculation is counterproductive until all the facts are gathered and studied and a final report with findings and recommendations is released."

"The investigation at this time is largely focused on fact gathering," said Clack. "None of the government investigators has pointed fingers at any specific source as a cause. And there are many potential causes for investigators to study, such as mechanical failure aboard the Overseas Reymar, faulty navigational devices, unpredictable fog conditions, the actions of the ship's bridge crew, water currents and tides, and other possible sources. We learned that a Coast Guard Notice to Mariners reported yesterday that navigational aids on the Bridge, between Charlie-Delta and Delta-Echo spans, were not functioning and that will be investigated as well."

As for Captain Kleess' record, the pilot commission -- which is responsible for reviewing and approving all pilots for duty -- reports that he in fact has a good record as a pilot and mariner. The pilot commission's assessment is supported by Captain Kleess' record of performance as a mariner and pilot. He became a bar pilot after a very competitive process in which only highly qualified mariners are selected as pilots from a large number of very qualified candidates that apply.

Captain Kleess graduated cum laude from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York in 1976. This is one of the premier maritime schools in the country. He graduated with dual majors in both the engine and deck departments. At graduation he was issued a Third Mate's Unlimited License and a Third Engineer's License. From that time through 1991 he sailed mostly on oil tankers. He went up through the ranks as a Third Engineer, then Third Mate, Second Mate, Chief Mate, and then sailed as a Captain on tankers. From 1991 until 2003 he was employed at Louisiana Offshore Oil Port as a docking pilot mooring and unmooring tankers ranging in size from 80,000 to 560,000 tons. Over this 12-year period he performed approximately 1500 moorings and unmoorings.

In October 2003 Capt. Kleess was admitted to the San Francisco Bar Pilots training program. He successfully completed this program in October 2005. He has been a pilot in San Francisco Bay from 2005 to the present. Capt. Kleess also performs the duties of a river pilot as needed. Of the 58 bar pilots he is one of only 10 who are licensed to do this. It takes extraordinary skill and experience to perform this task. He pilots ships that are up to 600 to 700 feet long on the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers in channels that can be as narrow as 200 feet, and many of these ships are up to 110 feet wide. These ships are piloted to and from Stockton and Sacramento during the day and nighttime hours. Since becoming a bar pilot in 2005 he has piloted 1160 ships in and out of the Bay and rivers.

There has been some mention in the media about three minor incidents that occurred in 2009 and 2010. The Board of Pilot Commissioners found these to be minor incidents in a career that has involved almost 1200 ship movements in the Bay and rivers.

This is an unfortunate incident, which the Coast Guard, NTSB, and BOPC are investigating. Capt. Kleess is providing his full assistance and cooperation with these investigations.

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For more information:
Rex M. Clack, Esq.
Email Contact
(415) 543-5300

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