By ANTHONY DiPAOLA and BARBARA POWELL
The Houston Ship Channel is closed for a third day and about
80 vessels are backed up as crews work to contain and clean
up a 4,000-bbl fuel oil spill after a collision March 22.
Workers have refloated a barge whose six tanks were carrying
22,000 bbl (924,000 gal) of ship fuel when the collision
occurred near Texas City, Texas, said Lieutenant Junior Grade
Kristopher Kidd, a spokesman for the US Coast Guard.
The barge, which was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan,
was struck by the 585-foot bulk carrier Summer Wind, causing
one of the barges tanks to leak its load of fuel oil,
the Coast Guard said. The fuel from the remaining five tanks
has been transferred and the vessel will be moved to a local
shipyard, the Coast Guard said.
The 52-mile (84-kilometer) shipping lane is a key transit
route for processed fuels and chemical feedstock
from refineries along
the Gulf Coast. A US shale oil and natural gas boom has
contributed to the channels traffic.
The spill may pose a risk to migratory birds who have their
habitat on both shores of the channel, the Associated Press
reported, citing Richard Gibbons, the conservation director
of the Houston Audubon Society. Fewer than 10 oiled birds
were sighted and recovered for transfer to a wildlife
rehabilitation facility, according to a Coast Guard
Summer Wind collided with the barge at 12:35 p.m. local time
on Saturday, according to Coast Guard statements on its
website. The most severely damaged part of the barge
contained a tank with a capacity for 4,000 bbl, or 168,000
gal, of fuel, said Lieutenant Sam Danus, a Coast Guard
spokesman. The vessel was identified as Kirby Barge 27706,
according to the Port of Houston Authority.
There were more than 30 recovery craft on site, up from 24 at
the start of yesterday, Kidd said. Some worked through the
night, aided by containment booms stretching for more than
69,000 feet, the Coast Guard said.