A section of the upper Houston Ship Channel has been closed to deep draft ships after a tug and barge sank Monday morning.
Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service Houston closed an approximately 1,000 yard section of the upper ship channel to deep draft ship traffic beginning at 5:58 a.m. Monday, about an hour after a tug and barge sank.
The section of the channel, located about 2 miles east of the Interstate 610 bridge across from the Kinder Morgan terminals in Galena Park, remains open to barge traffic one at a time. There are currently two ships waiting to go further into the port and two waiting to come out, the Coast Guard said.
The Enterprise, a tug across the ship channel from the incident, called the vessel traffic service when they heard what they described as lines parting as the tug Annie Moon and attached barge sank where they were moored at about 5 a.m.
The Annie Moon is a small 25-foot harbor tug and the barge is about 200-feet long and was carrying sheets of 60 to 80-foot long, 2-foot wide and a half inch thick sheets of metal.
The Coast Guard initially restricted the area to one-way traffic upon notification of the incident, deployed a boat crew from Station Houston and diverted an Air Station Houston helicopter crew to assess the situation. The Sector Houston-Galveston Incident Management Team deployed personnel to the scene to assess the incident and oversee response operations.
The assessment team determined that approximately 20 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the tug, which was carrying about 300 gallons. The area has been boomed off to contain and recover any additional spill while the vessels are being recovered.
Big John, the Big John Marine heavy lift crane barge, is expected to be on scene at 1 p.m. to begin work lifting the sunken tug and barge. The Coast Guard will work with responders to ensure the barge and it’s cargo are clear of the ship channel before being able to reopen the channel to all traffic.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.