TEXAS CITY — The federal agencies investigating a ship and barge collision near the Texas City Dike that sent 168,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into Galveston Bay will have a public hearing for 4 1/2 days next week.
The hearing process is part of the formal marine casualty investigation into the collision between a barge towed by the tugboat Miss Susan and the cargo ship Summer Wind.
The Kirby Inland Marine-owned tugboat was taking a pair of barges filled with about a million gallons of fuel oil from the Port of Texas City to the Bolivar Peninsula on a foggy morning March 22.
As the tugboat entered the Texas City Y, an area where the Houston and Texas City ship channels intersect with the Intracostal Waterway, the Summer Wind, a Liberian-flagged vessel operated by a Greek shipping company, slammed into the lead barge.
The oil spill forced the closure of shipping lanes and beaches and suspended ferry service between Galveston and Port Bolivar.
Oil washed ashore along Galveston and as far south as Matagorda Bay.
The U.S. Coast Guard, with assistance from the National Transportation Safety Board, is investigating the collision.
Both agencies will be part of the hearing. There will be no analysis or conclusions made during the hearing, Coast Guard officials said.
“The investigation and formal board are not intended to fix civil or criminal responsibility,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
“The purpose of the Coast Guard marine casualty investigation and formal board hearing is to examine the causes of a marine casualty, make recommendations to help avoid a similar incident, improve overall maritime transportation safety and promote safety of life and property at sea.”
Coast Guard officials did not provide details as to who would testify or what sort of evidence would be presented.
Because the oil was spilled from barges owned by Kirby, that company is listed as the “responsible party” and paid for the oil cleanup and initial claims.
In court documents filed in response to a federal lawsuit over the spill, Kirby claims the cargo ship was at fault and was going too fast given the low visibility conditions.
WHAT: Formal public hearing on Texas City Y oil spill
WHEN: Monday through June 6. Monday’s hearing starts at 1 p.m. The rest of the week, hearings start at 8 a.m.
WHERE: Galveston County Criminal Justice Center, 600 59th St. in Galveston
Public comment on Texas City Y spill
Those interested in making comment on the March 22 collision and spill can email comments to INCOE@uscg.mil. In the subject line of the email write FORMAL HEARING COMMENT.