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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Gulf Intercoastal Waterway Closed After Barge Strikes Bridge in Galveston

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 15, 2024

(Photo: Galveston County Office of Emergency Management)

(Photo: Galveston County Office of Emergency Management)

A section of the busy Gulf Intercoastal Waterway has been closed to vessel traffic after a barge allided with a bridge that connects Galveston to Pelican Island, officials said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Coast Guard said its watchstanders at Sector Houston-Galveston were notified of the allision at 9:50 a.m. and that the cause of the incident is under investigation. The barge, owned by Martin Petroleum, is believed to be a runaway that broke loose from a tow.

There were no known injuries, and two crewmembers were rescued from the water, according to local media reports.

Officials said response crews are working to contain an oil spill that occurred as a result of the allision. The 30,000-gallon-capacity barge is said to be carrying a base petroleum product. Vacuum gas oil from the barge has been visually confirmed in the water, according to the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management, though the amount of product leaked is unknown.

As a result of the spill, an approximate 6.5-mile stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway from mile markers 350.5 to 357 has been closed to vessel traffic. 

A portion of an out-of-service railway that runs alongside the bridge has broken off, and pieces of the wreckage can be seen resting on top of the barge.

The event has impacted vehicle traffic on the two-lane Pelican Island Causeway, the sole road to and from Pelican Island—home to the Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) as well as several port-related industries. Traffic had been halted but resumed in one direction to allow people off of Pelican Island.

Constructed in 1960, the bascule bridge—the last of its kind in Texas—has long been pegged for replacement, though the plans to do so have progressed slowly.

The collision comes amid heightened concerns about bridge vulnerability after the containership Dali collided with Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge in March, leading to the collapse of the structure and the deaths of six workers.

The U.S. Coast Guard this week said it is evaluating whether other bridges over navigable waters, ports and waterways nationwide are at risk.

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