TEXAS CITY — The barge company involved in a March collision that spilled more than 160,000-gallons of heavy fuel oil into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico said it should not be held responsible for the spill.

In a federal court filing on Tuesday, Kirby Inland Marine said the ship that collided with its oil-loaded barge was at fault.

On a foggy March 22 morning, the Kirby Inland tugboat Miss Susan was pushing two barges that were loaded with bunker oil. As it was making its way from the Port of Texas City to the Bolivar Peninsula, the cargo ship Summer Wind collided with the lead barge.

The collision happened at the Texas City Y, an area where the Texas City and Houston Ship Channels intersect with the Intracoastal Waterway.

The resulting spill shut down shipping lanes for several days and saw oil wash up on beaches in Galveston and south as far away as Matagorda County.

Tuesday’s filing for exoneration or limitation of liability followed a similar court filing last month in which Kirby Inland claims that the Summer Wind was speeding, did not take evasive action and was not “seaworthy.”

In Tuesday’s filing, Kirby maintains “the resulting loss, damage and injury, if any, was neither caused nor contributed to by any fault or neglect on the part of Kirby Inland Marine … Rather the incident was caused solely by the fault and or neglect of parties and/or vessels for whose actions Kirby Inland Marine LP is not responsible.”

In records obtained by The Daily News, a post-collision inspection of the Summer Wind by the U.S. Coast Guard found issues with the ship’s navigation equipment. Previous inspections of the ship by Greek officials found several violations, records show.

An attorney representing the Summer Wind’s owners did not respond to a late afternoon request for comment.

A Coast Guard investigation into the collision continues. Officials have not said when they expect the investigation to conclude.

For now, Kirby is listed as the “responsible party,” meaning that because the oil leaked from its vessel, the company is responsible for paying for all of the cleanup costs and initial spill claims.

In its court filings on Tuesday, Kirby Inland is asking the court that should it rule against exoneration to limit the company’s liability to $5.15 million.

Sean O’Rourke, an attorney who filed a lawsuit on behalf of several fishing charter companies and bait shops, said Kirby’s filing was expected.

“Kirby is going to do everything in their power to avoid responsibility,” O’Rourke said. “With their filing of this limitation, they have signaled their intent to avoid compensating business and individuals for legitimate damages suffered as a result of this spill.”

A call to Kirby Inland was not returned.

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

(3) comments


There is no "substance" to this article. Kirby has filed a "general denial" saying they are not at fault. Every defendant says that. A separate filing, presented long ago, calls the cargo ship unseaworthy without saying what any defects may have had any relevance to the collision. Nothing new here.

George Croix

Until the official investigation is complete, it's all he said - she said.

“Kirby is going to do everything in their power to avoid responsibility,” O’Rourke said. “With their filing of this limitation, they have signaled their intent to avoid compensating business and individuals for legitimate damages suffered as a result of this spill.”
Complete BS, Mr. Attorney.
Kirby is doing the exact same thing YOU are, acting in the best interests of their client (in this case, themselves). Doing everything in their power to avoid responsibility would have menat a slow response to the spill and and attempting corners cut to clean up, both of which did not happen.
What they've signaled is their intent to have the responsible party compensate people for losses (by the way, Mr. Attorney, that's real losses, not the ones ginned up inside some law office, or in a 'clients' fantasies ...), and they claim the responsible party at this point is the ship's owners. Exactly how YOU are handling your case.
Legitimate claims should be paid, but it will be interesting to see how many phony 'harmed' people have suffered 'losses' from points as far away as, oh, Lubbock...

Miceal O'Laochdha

Quite right gecroix, on all points.

This attorney's comments are both BS and to be expected. His clients will be trying to sue someone (either the barge or the ship owners, depending on the outcome of the allision investigation), so it is incumbent on him to make a statement that serves to publically demonize the first potential defendant. If the ship is found responsible for the allusion, the same attorney will quickly begin to demonize THAT company in the press, instead. He also knows it will require less effort on his party to get money out of a substantial American corporation like Kirby, as opposed to the effort required to do the same among the myriad of multinational owners, ship managers, and underwriters of this FOC ship. Kirby, so far as we can tell from public reports, have stood up admirably to all their initial responsibilities, and did so promptly. Now is the time for them to try to mitigate their losses by suggesting that the Summer Wind was responsible for the root cause of the incident. That may or may not be the case; the NTSB investigation will clarify that issue, and the lawsuits will cascade on down from there.

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