Collision, Spill Forces Houston Channel Closure
Cleanup continues in response to an oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel that resulted in the release of approximately 168,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil.
On March 22, 2014, the M/V Summer Wind and Kirby Barge 27706 collided in the Houston Ship Channel in the vicinity LT 26 near the "Texas City Y", the Houston-Galveston Port Community said in an announcement.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) announced that Unified Command is working closely with the Vessel Traffic Service, paired with assessments of the Houston Ship Channel, to determine when partial vessel traffic can resume. This could include reopening the Bolivar Ferry to alleviate impact to the Bolivar residents.
The USCG established an emergency safety zone to protect life and property from the hazards associated with and resulting from this collision, and subsequent salvage and oil spill response. This temporary emergency safety zone is enforceable beginning at 1p.m. on March 22 through March 29, 2014, or until the oil spill is cleared from the waterway, whichever occurs first.
The safety zone includes closures and/or navigation restrictions and requirements that are vital to maintaining safe navigation on the Houston Ship Channel, Texas City Channel and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway during salvage and oil spill cleanup operations. The safety zone encompasses the Houston Ship Channel from Galveston Bay Entrance Channel Lighted Buoy 3 To Light 42, on The Texas City Channel from Lighted Buoy 1 to Light 17, on The Galveston Channel from Lighted Buoy 1 to Light 3, and on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from Bolivar Light 14 to Galveston Freeport Cut Off Channel B 20 until further notice.
As of 6 a.m., there are 43 outbound vessels and 38 inbound vessels in the queue for transit. Once the channel has been determined safe to navigate and will not spread oil contaminants, a prioritization list will be established to determine the entry order of vessels, the USCG said. More than 69,000 feet of containment boom has now been deployed on waters surrounding the incident site and along sensitive shorelines in the area. An additional 192,500 feet of boom has been staged for possible deployment and another 20,680 feet has been ordered.
Changing currents, winds and weather conditions have necessitated response officials to further extend containment and oil recovery plans into the Gulf of Mexico and south along Galveston Island.
Approximately 27 response vessels are actively working to skim and recover oil with more than 380 personnel actively on-scene and another 200 responding in the incident command post.
As of Monday morning there have been three confirmed captured and three deceased birds. Experts from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Texas Parks and Wildlife are responding with stabilization trailers, and are staged along the Texas City Dike and the Bolivar Peninsula. The public is reminded to refrain from capturing any potentially affected wildlife and is urged to contact Wildlife Response Service at 1-888-384-2000.
Air monitoring continues throughout the general area, although readings have consistently shown no reason for health concerns.
The Coast Guard investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Mariners are advised to monitor VHF Ch 16 for current broadcast notice to mariners. Mariners should anticipate impacts to navigation throughout the response evolution.
Mariners may contact Houston Vessel Traffic at 281-464-4837 for questions or to request permission to enter the safety zone.