One-way ship and two-way barge traffic was restored Sunday in the wake of the collision that spilled about 9,000 barrels of gasoline blend stock into the waterway.
The Houston Ship Channel was partially reopened Sunday after a tanker collided with a tug that was pushing two barges Friday afternoon near Bayport, Texas, which caused an estimated 9,000 barrels of gasoline blend stock to spill into the waterway.
One-way ship and two-way barge traffic was restored, according to a release by the unified command, which is comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office and Kirby Inland Marine. Forty-three ships had passed through the channel over the previous 24 hours as of 8 a.m. Central time Monday, and 56 vessels were queued to enter inbound and one was waiting to go outbound, said unified command joint information spokesperson Greg Beuerman.
The channel was closed from Lights 61 to 75 following the collision of the 755-foot tanker Genesis River and the tug Voyager, which was pushing two barges that were each loaded with about 25,000 barrels of the gasoline blend stock Reformate, near Lights 71-74. The cause of the incident remains under investigation, according to a statement by the unified command.
Lightering of the product from the damaged barge, which spilled the gasoline blend, was expected to finish Monday and the barge will be taken to a local shipyard upon completion, Beuerman said. Lightering of the second barge, which overturned in the waterway, will not begin until at least Tuesday, and “it’s premature to say when that might start or how long that might take,” he said.
“That process is complicated because the barge of course is upside down,” Beuerman told American Shipper by phone. “They will have to essentially drill holes into each of the various tanks of the barge and lighter product from each individual tank, so that’s going to be a little bit of a process in and of itself.”
The unified command had deployed 20,550 feet of product containment and absorbent boom to limit the spread of spilled product, according to the statement. The booms were placed around the incident itself and scattered at seven locations down the bay’s shoreline that were viewed as economic or environmental priorities, Beuerman said.
Response officials have continually conducted air monitoring through the area, and about 2,700 samples had been taken an analyzed as of noon Sunday, none of which “exceeded the established action levels,” Craig Kartye of the Texas General Land Office’s oil spill prevention program said, according to The Houston Chronicle. CTEH’s air monitoring recorded five detections of volatile organic compounds and two detections of benzene during a 12-hour period beginning noon Sunday, but subsequent readings were below detection level, according to preliminary air monitoring summaries.
Eight skimmers were in operations as of noon Sunday as were 334 federal, state and local response personnel engaged in both planning and implementing the response and clean-up operations, the unified command said.
The navigation safety zone that was expanded Sunday morning to include the area from the western shores of Lower Galveston Bay, extending south to Eagle Point in Saint Leon, east up to but not including the Houston Ship Channel, then north to but not including the Bayport Ship Channel was “slightly expanded during the afternoon,” Beuerman said.
“It was expanded very slightly further south along the bay along the westside of the bay, but certainly was not expanded further into the shipping channel or anything,” he explained.