The two barges involved in the tug collision, including the damaged one that spilled more than 11,200 barrels of gas blend stock, have been removed.
The Houston Ship Channel reopened without restrictions Wednesday after two barges that were involved in a collision with a tanker last week near Bayport, Texas, were removed, according to the unified command.
“The successful removal process is a credit to precise planning and risk assessment by the various agencies, barge owner and contract personnel who responded to this incident,” said Lt. Cmdr. Muhammad Ali Cochran, federal on-scene coordinator, in an update by the unified command, which consists of U.S. Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office, Port of Houston Fire Department and Kirby Inland Marine. “I am pleased that we have been able to safely remove these barges from the incident site and facilitate the return of normal commerce and activity in the ship channel.”
The channel, which was partially reopened Sunday to one-way ship and two-way barge traffic, 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.
Kirby barge 30015T, the damaged barge that released about 11,276 barrels of the gas blend into the waterway, was moved to the Southwest Shipyard at Channelview. The overturned barge MMI 3041, which was moved without the removal of its product, was taken to Barbours Cut Turning Basin, where lightering operations will take place. The movement of the barges took less than four hours and there were no reports of release of the gas blend into the water, the unified command said.
Seven skimmers had recovered more than 3,825 barrels of gas blend-water mixture as of Tuesday. About 20,000 feet of absorbent and containment boom was deployed around the barges and surrounding sensitive shoreline areas, but the unified command has started “removing boom from certain areas where there’s no longer possibility of an impact,” unified command joint information spokesperson Greg Beuerman told American Shipper Thursday.
A cleaning operation also had started where 0.125 miles of shoreline on property owned by the Galveston Bay Foundation was impacted.
“We’re going to continue to do … air and water quality assessments and shoreline assessments in certain areas,” Beuerman said. “We’re working with that property owner to facilitate a cleanup plan on that particular piece of property and we continue to do air monitoring around the two locations where the barges were taken. That will continue. No decision’s been made on when we might stop that monitoring.”
No crew injuries were associated with the collision, the cause of which remains under investigation.