News Release # 4

Unified Command Continues Aggressive Response to Bayport Channel Vessel Incident

Members of the Unified Command established in response to Friday’s tanker / tug collision near Bayport, Texas continue to deploy material and personnel resources to limit environmental impacts and fully reopen the Houston Ship Channel to maritime commerce.

The incident occurred late Friday afternoon when the tug Voyager was stuck by the 755-foot tanker Genesis River near Lights 71-74 in the Houston Ship Channel. While there were no crew injuries associated with the incident, approximately 9000 barrels of gasoline blend stock was released into the channel from one of two barges being pushed by the tug. The second barge was overturned and remains near the channel. The cause of the incident remains under investigation.

Current response priorities established by the Unified Command of federal, state and local officials and representatives of Kirby Inland Marine are the health and safety of persons living or working in the area, including those responding to the incident, protection of water quality and marine life in Galveston Bay, shoreline protection and clean up, and the safe and timely removal of the two damaged barges.

Since the incident occurred, response officials have continually conducted air monitoring throughout the area, posting results of that monitoring on the response organization’s website, www.bayport-response.com.  As of noon today, 2700 samples have been taken and analyzed.  Concerns regarding odors that may have resulted from the incident should be addressed to 281-757-3017.  For further health concerns or questions, the regional poison control center can be reached at 1-800-222-1222

Water quality testing teams are also contacting home and property owners along the bay to conduct sampling and assess the need for shoreline remediation.  Shoreline residents wishing to verify the identity of spill response personnel seeking access to property may call 281-757-3017.

As of 12 pm today, the Unified Command reports a significant commitment of assets throughout the impacted area including:

  • 334 federal, state and local response personnel engaged in both planning and implementing the response and clean-up operations
  • 8 skimmers are in operation
  • The deployment of 20,550 feet of product containment and absorbent boom to limit the spread of spilled product
  • Salvage assets on site include multiple spud barges to secure the damaged barges in place, a crane barge, a lightering barge and lightering pumps.
  • Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Teams deployed to areas where product may have reached shore.

Salvage teams have secured the barges in their current locations near the channel and are beginning to remove cargo from those barges. Work is expected to continue throughout the day with an established priority of ensuring the protection of the Bay from the additional release of product from the barge.  Once cargo is removed from the barges, they will be relocated from the incident area.

Although a partial closure of the ship channel remains in effect, one way ship and two way barge traffic has been restored. The United States Coast Guard reports that there are 47 outbound vessels and 48 inbound vessels waiting to make safe passage through the channel as of 2 p.m. Sunday.

The previously established navigation safety zone was expanded at 11 a.m. Sunday to include the area from the western shores of Lower Galveston Bay, extending south to Eagle Point in San Leon, east up to but not including the Houston Ship Channel, then extending north up to but not including the Bayport Ship Channel.  All boaters are prohibited from exiting Clear Creek into the bay or operating in the area covered by the safety zone.

A telephone hotline has been established for persons wishing to report impacted fish or wildlife: 979/215-8835.

Persons wishing to pursue a claim in the response to the incident may call 800/241-9010.