The Houston Ship Channel re-opens

Houston Ship Channel. CREDIT: Chris Kuhlman/Port of Houston Authority

The Houston Ship Channel re-opened after a ship collision occurred involving a tanker and a tug, pushing two barges.

The channel allowed limited circulation on Sunday 12 May, one-way ship and two way barge traffic, while the US Coast Guard (USCG) carried out their final operations.

The accident took place on Friday 10 May between channel lights 71-74 off Bayport Texas, where the 230 m Genesis River tanker collided with the Voyager tug. One of the barges capsized, while the other, Kirby 30015, sustained a hole and reportedly leaked 9,000 barrels of gasoline blend stock reformate into the channel. The Genesis River also sustained damage below the water line, although no spillage was recorded.

The USCG dispatched their response boat MH-65 Dolphin as well as fireboats to the scene to limit the contamination damage and siphon off the remaining 1.7 million gallons of fuel component inside the barges.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, plumes of benzene were detected in the air during the weekend in the surrounding suburbs of Seabrook and Bacliff following the crash. Benzene is a known carcinogen to humans, however, further air samples were taken and analysed by response officials and none “exceeded the established action levels”, assured Craig Kartye of the Texas General Land Office’s oil spill prevention programme.

The investigation into the causes of the incident is still ongoing, no injuries were reported.