Houston Ship Channel Remains Closed

Mike Schuler
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March 10, 2015

The chemical tanker Carla Maersk sits at anchor in thick fog off Morgans Point, Texas, after being involved in a collision with the bulk carrier Conti Peridot March 9, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

A portion of the Houston Ship Channel remained closed Tuesday morning as federal, state and local agencies continued to respond to a ship collision near Morgans Point, Texas.

The collision occurred at approximately 12:40 p.m. Monday between the chemical tanker Carla Maersk and bulk carrier Conti Peridot, which resulted in a puncture to three of the Carla Maersk’s port tanks. The chemical tanker was carrying approximately 216,000 barrels of Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) prior to the collision and an unknown quantity of the product spilled into the Channel. No injuries have been reported as a result of the collision.

The Houston Ship Channel remained closed to all traffic from light 86 to the Fred Hartman Bridge as of Tuesday morning. There were 26 ships waiting to come inbound to Houston and 14 waiting to leave, according to an update from the Coast Guard late Monday night. The queue grew to 28 inbound and 21 outbound vessels by Tuesday morning, according to U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Andy Kendrick, Bloomberg reports.

The Coast Guard said it will be working to ensure that the remaining product in the Carla Maersk is safely secured before it can begin reopening the ship channel. The Conti Peridot reportedly lost an anchor in the collision, which will need to be retrieved from the channel prior to it being reopened.

Incident Photos: Damage to Carla Maersk Following Collision

The unified command determined that the Barbours Cut Terminal would not open as normally scheduled at 7 a.m. today, as a precautionary measure. Air monitoring is continuing to take place throughout the area, including the Cities of Baytown, La Porte, Morgan’s Point, and is being facilitated by local jurisdictions. The monitoring has determined that fumes are present, but are below toxic levels.

A safety zone has been established from the Fred Hartman Bridge to light 86 on the Houston Ship Channel and includes Goose Creek, Tabbs Bay, Cedar Bayou Channel and Barbours Cut.

AIS data as of 9:30 a.m. CDT Tuesday shows the Carla Maersk and Conti Peridot still at anchor just south of Morgans Point, where the collision occurred.

The Port of Houston said that with the exception of the Barbours Cut Terminal, all other Port Authority terminals, including the Bayport Container Terminal, are open for normal business operations.

MTBE is a chemical compound that is primarily used as a fuel additive in motor gasoline. It is highly flammable and can be hazardous to air quality at higher levels.

An incident command post has been established at the City of La Porte Emergency Operations Center.

The cause of the collision is under investigation.

Monday’s incident marked the second collision between two commercial ships in the Houston Ship Channel in just 5 days. On March 5, the Hamburg Süd-owned containership Monte Alegre and the chemical tanker Chembulk Houston collided in Galveston Bay, causing a brief closure of a portion the Houston Ship Channel. No injuries or pollution were reported as a result of that incident.

Full Coverage: Carla Maersk Collision

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