Houston Ship Channel remains closed after tanker collision spills gasoline
Much of the Houston Ship Channel remained closed Saturday after two vessels collided Friday afternoon, causing a large gasoline spill.
The 755-foot tanker Genesis River collided with a tug boat pushing two barges, each carrying 25,000 barrels of product, around 3:30 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard said. One barge capsized and the other was damaged, leaking a gasoline product called reformate.
Jim Guidry, executive vice president of Kirby Corporation, owner of the barges, said at a news conference Saturday morning the tanker’s hull punctured two of the smaller vessel’s four storage tanks.
“The bow of the ship went through the port tank into the starboard tank, so there was no way to secure the source of the leak,” Guidry said. “Those two tanks were open to the sea.”
Aerial footage showed a trianglular gash in one of the barges and a sheen floating on the water. The white bow of the Genesis River bore scrape marks.
The Coast Guard has yet to determine to the cause of the collision.
Chief Joergens Reno said crews are attempting to calculate how much product has spilled into the water. The channel remains closed between Bayport and Redfish Island, halting 29 inbound and 17 outbound ships.
“Our assets are out there right now, still assessing the situation, still trying to come up with a game plan,” Reno said. “We would love to get some traffic moving.”
Crews have deployed 1,600 feet of boom around the barges to contain the spill. Additional boom is being deployed to protect sensitive areas around the bay, the Coast Guard said.
The National Weather Service warned residents as far west as Pearland they may be able to smell gasoline fumes, with the most pungent odors in Webster and La Porte.
The channel closure is the first unplanned shutdown since March, when a massive chemical storage tank fire at Intercontinental Terminals, Co. in Deer Park spilled petroleum products into nearby waterways. That three-day closure cost the energy industry about $1 billion, experts estimated.