Update 2 (8:40 p.m. EST Sunday: Governor Rick Perry has directed all necessary state resources to assist with the cleanup. The barge has been moved to a local shipyard and is no longer at the scene of the spill. The Houston Ship Channel has been closed to traffic, and the Bolivar Ferry has been suspended until the spill is contained.
The incident is under investigation by the NTSB.
Update (5:00 p.m. EST Sunday): Lightering operations to transfer remaining oil from the damaged barge are expected to be complete today.
Approximately 35,000 feet of boom has been deployed in containment efforts and to mitigate the affect on the environment, the Coast Guard said. The area immediately surrounding the damaged barge was quickly boomed on Saturday afternoon. The maximum capacity of the breached tank is 168,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, but the amount of released product still being assessed.
The Unified Command has expanded the safety zone to include all areas between Lighted Buoy 3 and Lighted Buoy 40 to prevent other vessels from interfering with the response efforts and from inadvertently spreading oil.
The Bolivar ferry continues to be closed.
The following images courtesy gCaptain contributor Bryan Jones
By Anthony DiPaola
March 23 (Bloomberg) — Oil-recovery vessels worked overnight to contain and remove an unspecified quantity of marine fuel that spilled into the Houston Ship Channel at the mouth of Galveston Bay following a collision, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.
Response groups coordinated by the Coast Guard and Texas authorities were working to salvage the partially submerged barge leaking the marine fuel, Lt. Sam Danus said by phone from the incident command post at Texas City today.
Overcast conditions and rain forecast throughout the day were “not ideal” for the clean-up effort and “visibility is not the greatest,” Danus said. Wind was negligible at about 8:30 a.m. local time, according to the spokesman.
The bulk carrier Summer Wind collided with a barge carrying about 924,000 gallons of ship fuel near Texas City at 12:35 p.m. local time yesterday, according to Coast Guard statements on its website. The most severely damaged part of the barge, which was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan, contained a tank with a capacity for 4,000 barrels, or 168,000 gallons, of fuel, Danus said.
“This is a very significant discharge” of oil, a Coast Guard spokesman told the media.
The 52-mile (84-kilometer) shipping lane is a key transit route for processed fuels and chemical feedstock from refineries in the area. The onset of the U.S. shale oil and natural gas boom has contributed to traffic in the channel, which has been restricted today, the Coast Guard said.
Four skimming vessels cleaned ship fuel from the water overnight, aided by containment booms stretching for about 600 feet and placed to stop slicks from spreading, the Coast Guard said. Twenty more craft joined the effort at sunrise, which was about 7 a.m local time, Danus said. Officials have as much as 90,000 additional feet of booms available, he said.
Authorities are still trying to determine if the collision also caused leaks from other parts of the barge, he said.
The spill could pose a risk to migratory birds who have their habitat on both shores of the channel, the Associated Press reported, citing Richard Gibbons, the conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society.
The incident response is being coordinated by a unified command, which consists of a wide variety of federal, state and local government agencies, non-profit organizations and the owners of the damaged barge, Kirby Inland Marine. Coordinating agencies include the United States Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office, and Galveston County Office of Emergency Management. Other agencies participating in the response include U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Galveston City Office of Emergency Management, Texas City Office of Emergency Management, and the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health.
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