"Only our most elite pilots go up there," Garfinkle said. "It takes a special person to do that type of work."
The commissioners' 2010 annual report showed Kleess also was held responsible for allowing a ship he was piloting on May 26, 2010, to stray into shallow water in the Richmond Inner Harbor, causing a tug boat tending the ship to briefly run aground. The board found there was minimal damage and Kleess wasn't disciplined for the incident.
Other agency records also showed that pilot Guy Kleess was placed on medical leave in August 2010 for an undisclosed ailment. His license expired in November of that year. The Coast Guard cleared him for duty, and his license was renewed on Jan. 11, 2011, minutes of a monthly meeting of the pilot commissioners show.
A call to Kleess' San Francisco home on Tuesday went unanswered.
Board records show Kleess went to work on oil tankers for Exxon Oil Co. after graduating from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1976.
The company promoted him several times during the next 13 years. He ultimately attained the rank of master — or captain — of his own ship. He held various other high-ranking mariner positions with other companies before entering the San Francisco Bay bar pilots training program in 2003.
Investigators also will inspect the hull above and below the water line, but Lansing said it wasn't breached.
The bridge sustained minor damage and remained open after the accident that damaged 30 to 40 feet of "fender" material that will need to be replaced.
The fender system made of steel and wooden timbers was built onto the west span to absorb such strikes.
OSG Ship Management Inc., the parent company that owns the Marshall Islands-registered Overseas Reymar, said the accident occurred as the vessel hit an underwater portion of the massive bridge structure. The ship was not carrying oil as cargo, only fuel to power its engines, Goodyear said.
The crew reported no loss of steering or propulsion, and initial investigations showed no water leaks from any of the ballast tanks, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for OSG.
California Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jordan Scott said the superstructure of the bridge was fine.
Associated Press writers Lisa Leff, Sudhin Thanawala and Terence Chea contributed to this report.