Collision Closes Houston Ship Channel

Monday, December 13, 2004
The Bolivar/Galveston, Texas, ferry re-opened at 2:50 p.m. after being closed for seven hours today. Sheening was seen on the water near the Bolivar ferry terminal after approximately 42,000 gallons of alkylate, a gasoline blend component, was spilled into the Houston Ship Channel near Galveston from a collision between two tugs and barges this morning. The Intracostal Waterway is open to one-way traffic.

The alkylate, which dissipates very rapidly, came from the #2 and #3 tanks on the port side of the barge MMI 605 being pushed by the Rita M. The barge can carry as much as 1.25 million gallons of the product; approximately 225,311 gallons were in the two damaged tanks.

"Little if any environmental impact has occurred at this time," said Richard Arnhart, Texas General Land Office. "We will continue to monitor the site."

The Houston Ship Channel had been closed since the incident at 4:15 a.m. and the Coast Guard Captain of the Port, Capt. Rich Kaser, re-opened it at 8:30 a.m. The Bolivar Roads section of the Intracostal Waterway and the Bolivar Ferry had been closed since 7:45 a.m. due to the gasoline spill.

Two injured crewmembers on the Rita M were taken to shore where an ambulance took them to the University of Texas Medical Branch.

The Rita M was pushing two barges and the UTV Thunder is an integrated sea-going tug with one barge.

Coast Guard responders are investigating the collision between the Rita M and the UTV Thunder. The unified command consists of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Galveston; Texas General Land Office; Higman Marine Services Inc.; Galveston County Sheriff's Office; J.F. Moore International; Marine Survey Engineers; Texas Parks and Wildlife; Texas City Emergency Management; Galveston County Emergency Management; and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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