3 Cruise Ships and Dozens of Other Vessels Trapped by Texas Oil Spill

A Coast Guard photo shows an oil slick as marine fuel oil leaks from a barge into the Houston Ship Channel on March 22. (Photo: Coast Guard via European Pressphoto Agency)
A Coast Guard photo shows an oil slick as marine fuel oil leaks from a barge into the Houston Ship Channel on March 22. (Photo: Coast Guard via European Pressphoto Agency)

Three cruise ships were among scores of boats trapped by an “extremely serious” oil spill that closed the shipping channel connecting Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico for a second day Sunday, the Coast Guard said.

On Saturday, a barge carrying almost 1 million gallons of heavy oil collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel at Texas City. A barge tank containing 168,000 gallons of oil was breached, but the Coast Guard said it was not clear how much oil leaked.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Sam Danus said Sunday that crews were skimming up the thick, gooey oil, but that it was not clear when the channel could reopen. More than six miles of containment booms were being used to protect sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitats.

Two cruise ships and 25 other vessels were waiting to enter the channel from the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. One cruise ship and 34 other boats were waiting to leave Galveston Bay.

Guard officials received a call Saturday afternoon from the captain of the 585-foot bulk carrier Summer Wind reporting a collision with a barge. The barge contained 924,000 gallons of fuel oil, towed by the motor vessel Miss Susan.

“It is an extremely serious spill,” said Coast Guard Capt. Brian Penoyer said shortly after the spill was reported. “There is a large quantity, it will spread.”

Miss Susan was moving from Texas City to Bolivar at the time of the collision. Kirby Inland Marine, owner of the Miss Susan and the barges, activated an emergency response plan.

Six crewmembers of the Miss Susan were were injured; none suffered life-threatening injuries, the Coast Guard said.

“As a citizen and resident of the bay area, I am very concerned about the incident,” said Jim Guidry of Kirby Inland Marine. “We are concerned about the effective clean-up and protection of the environment.”

Contributing: KHOU-TV, Houston; Associated Press

SOURCE: John Bacon
USA TODAY

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