Two double-skinned barges, loaded with approximately two million gallons of crude oil, grounded near the Galveston Causeway Bridge Sunday and were freed Tuesday.
After many unsuccessful attempts to unground the barges with assist tugs Monday, the Coast Guard approved a plan to offload some crude oil to stand-by barges to lessen the weight and increase buoyancy, which freed them.
Marine Safety Unit Texas City personnel were on scene throughout the offloading and reloading of the crude oil in order to ensure the evolution was successful and to investigate the cause of the grounding.
The tow vessel Richard Gonsoulin 11 was pushing the barges and reported something got caught in their prop before they grounded around mile marker 355. Vessel groundings along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, in the Houston/Galveston area, occur about eight times a month for a variety of reasons and are normally refloated without incident in two to 12 hours.
The barges were successfully ungrounded with no damage to the vessels and no pollution to the environment or waterways.
“Our pollution responders and marine inspectors worked very closely with the owner and operator throughout the entire evolution to ensure the safe refloating of both barges,” said Cmdr. Ricardo Alonso, the commanding officer of Marine Safety Unit Texas City. “The proactive efforts of all parties resulted in the successful transfer of over 756,000 gallons of crude oil with no impact to the marine environment.”
The cause of the grounding is still under investigation.