Response Continues to Houston Ship Channel Collision, Reformate Spill

houston ship channel collision
The Unified Command continues salvage operations on two barges May 12, 2019 near Bayport, Texas after a collision on the Houston Ship Channel at Lights 71-74 between a 755-foot tanker and a tug pushing two barges.

Federal, state and local agencies worked tirelessly over the weekend to to cleanup 9,000 barrels of the gasoline blending stock Reformate that was spilled into the Houston Ship Channel after a collision between a tanker and tug pushing two barges near Bayport, Texas.

Members of the Unified Command established to respond to the collision continue to deploy material and personnel resources to limit environmental impacts and fully reopen the Houston Ship Channel to maritime commerce.

The incident occurred late Friday afternoon when the tug Voyager was stuck by the 755-foot tanker Genesis River near Lights 71-74 in the Houston Ship Channel.

There were no injuries associated with the collision, but approximately 9000 barrels of gasoline blend stock was released into the channel from one of two barges being pushed by the tug. The second barge was overturned and remains near the channel.

The two barges were carrying approximately 25,000 barrels of Reformate each. 

The cause of the incident remains under investigation.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo

As of 12 pm Sunday, the Unified Command reported that 334 federal, state and local response personnel were engaged in both planning and implementing the response and clean-up operations. Eight skimmers are in operation, and approximately 20,550 feet of containment and absorbent boom had been deployed to spread the product that had spill.

Salvage assets on site include multiple spud barges to secure the damaged barges in place, a crane barge, a lightering barge and lightering pumps. Salvage teams have secured the barges in their current locations near the channel and are beginning to remove cargo from those barges.

Work is expected to continue with an established priority of ensuring the protection of the Bay from the additional release of product from the barge. Once cargo is removed from the barges, they will be relocated from the incident area.

Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams have also been deployed to areas where product may have reached shore.

A photo shows the overturned barge on the Houston Ship Channel. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The priority of the Unified Command consisting of federal, state and local officials and representatives of Kirby Inland Marine continue to focus on the health and safety of persons living or working in the area, including those responding to the incident, protection of water quality and marine life in Galveston Bay, shoreline protection and clean up, and the safe and timely removal of the two damaged barges.

Since the incident occurred, response officials have continually conducted air monitoring throughout the area, posting results of that monitoring on the response organization’s website, www.bayport-response.com. As of noon Sunday, 2,700 samples had been taken and analyzed.

Water quality testing teams are also contacting home and property owners along the bay to conduct sampling and assess the need for shoreline remediation.

Although a partial closure of the ship channel remains in effect, one way ship and two way barge traffic had been restored by Sunday afternoon. Two ships were waiting to exit while 56 were waiting to enter the Houston Ship Channel on Monday, the Coast Guard said.

The previously established navigation safety zone has been expanded to include the area from the western shores of Lower Galveston Bay, extending south to Eagle Point in San Leon, east up to but not including the Houston Ship Channel, then extending north up to but not including the Bayport Ship Channel.