Two ships have collided in the Houston Ship Channel, according to Houston Marine Safety officials.
A portion of the busy Houston Ship Channel was shut Monday after the collision of two 600-foot ships in fog, causing a leak of flammable liquid.
Methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, a gasoline additive aboard the Danish-flagged chemical tanker Carla Maersk, leaked from tanks that ruptured in the vessel's collision with a 623-foot Liberian bulk carrier, Conti Peridot, Coast Guard Petty Officer Manda Emery said.
Officials believe the collision caused a breach in three of the containers storing the MTBE. The leak has since been secured, officials said. The amount of MTBE that leaked was not immediately known.
Three cargo tanks on the vessel were ruptured, releasing an unknown quantity of the gasoline additive, said Coast Guard Capt. Brian Penoyer, commander of the Houston-Galveston Coast Guard District.
The collision in the 52-mile (84-kilometer) long waterway, through which about 400 vessels pass each day, comes almost a year after another crash closed the entire channel for three days.
Officials with two states agencies, the General Land Office and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said they would play a backup role in any cleanup effort, deferring to the Coast Guard for any assistance they may need to provide.
The collision was the second in a week in the busy shipping channel. On Thursday, a cargo ship and an oil tanker bumped. No pollution and no injuries were reported in that incident.
The Port of Houston, a major part of the ship channel, is home to the nation's largest and one of the world's largest petrochemical complexes. It typically handles about 70 ships per day, plus 300 to 400 tugboats and barges, and consistently ranks first in the U.S. in foreign waterborne tonnage, U.S. imports and U.S. export tonnage. It is second in the U.S. in total tonnage.