Houston Ship Channel Fully Reopened

Mike Schuler
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March 12, 2015

Responders apply high-density foam to suppress flammable vapors, work to cover tank breaches and begin removing Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether from the damaged tanks Wednesday, March 11, 2014.

The Houston Ship Channel was fully reopened Thursday morning after initial salvage plans on a damaged chemical tanker were completed and the ship was successfully moved the vessel from the Channel to Barbour’s Cut turning basin.

The MT Carla Maersk suffered significant damage following a collision midday Monday with the bulk carrier Conti Peridot near Morgan’s Point, Texas. The tanker spilled an unknown quantity of the approximately 216,000 barrels of the chemical Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) it was hauling when the collision breached two of the ships port tanks. MTBE is a highly flammable chemical compound that is primarily used as a fuel additive in motor gasoline.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, responders finished removing the remaining MTBE from the breached tanks of the Carla Maersk early Thursday morning before moving the ship to a safe harbor, outside the busy shipping lane. Salvage plans also included checking the structural integrity and using high-density foam to suppress flammable vapors from the damaged tanks. Extensive air monitoring around the ship showed no sign of vapors seeping from the vessel.

Responders continue to conduct air and water tests, which show no public health or environmental concerns, the Coast Guard said.

The Conti Peridot was moved Tuesday to the Port Authority’s Turning Basin terminal. The ship reportedly lost an anchor in the collision, which needed to be removed from the ship channel prior to its reopening.

The Houston Ship Channel was closed to all traffic from light 86 to the Fred Hartman Bridge, a roughly 4 mile stretch, after the collision near Morgan’s Point, Texas at approximately 12:40 p.m. Monday.

The Port of Houston Authority updated that the Captain of the Port has reopened the Houston Ship Channel and the Houston Pilots have advised agents that they will begin working outbound traffic at 9:30 a.m. CDT Thursday. Plans presently call for Barbours Cut Terminal to resume operations at 1:00 p.m. today, the port authority said. All other Port Authority terminals, including the Bayport Container and Cruise Terminal, remain open and operating under normal business hours.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there 83 vessels in the queue at the ship channel, including 48 inbound and 35 outbound vessels, according to the Coast Guard.

The cause of the collision is under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and NTSB.

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