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No apparent leak after empty oil tanker hits Bay Bridge

January 7, 2013 |  3:22 pm

A worker inspects damage to the bottom of a tower on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

Officials on Monday afternoon were assessing the damage after an oil tanker collided with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but initial reports indicated that the vessel did not appear to be leaking.

The 752-foot Overseas Reymar hit the tower just west of Yerba Buena Island about 11:20 a.m. as it headed from port out to sea, said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Thomas McKenzie.

“There are no reports of pollution at this time and no injuries reported,” said McKenzie, whose agency joined the California Department of Transportation, the Pilot Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s office of spill prevention and response in probing the incident.

Charlie Goodyear, a spokesman for the San Francisco Bar Pilots Assn., said there was heavy fog near the island at the time of the collision and a strong ebb tide, although he stressed that he did not know “if either condition contributed to the accident.”

Capt. Peter McIsaac, president of the association, said he had seen the vessel and there was “no hole in the hull. The damage that is visible is on the starboard corridor, well above the water line.”

The blow, close to the ship’s stern, appeared to be “glancing,” he said. 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.”

As for the tower, there was some visible damage to the 12-by-12-foot timbers that serve as fenders, Goodyear said. A Caltrans spokeswoman said the agency was inspecting the bridge and planned to hold a press conference to discuss its findings.

McIsaac called the collision “very unusual.” It 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 Vessel Finder.

Although the tanker did not appear to be leaking, the Department of Fish and Wildlife dispatched a game warden, environmental scientists and oil spill prevention specialists to the scene, spokeswoman Alexia Retallack said.


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Photo: A worker inspects damage to the bottom of a tower on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press