(14) comments Back to story

Matt Coulson

This is actually a shipping industry issue. The spill is bunker oil,used by the intire shipping industry as fuel. The barge is like a floating gas station, filling ships with cargo you approve of as well as those you don't. Heber, blaming oil producers is a good example of why some may feel the need to defend the oil industry at times. Could this be laid at the feet of anyone else you don't like?

Joel Martin

Why do you think it's the job of our elected officials to encourage people to sue? That may not be your intention but that is the tone you're setting.As Matt said below, just because you don't like the oil industry is no reason for GDN to push for litigation when the likes of Buzbee and his others of his ilk are advertising for "injured parties" on Facebook and elsewhere.

Mary Branum

I hate to state that "accidents happen", but they do. This is a disaster for the entire area, but not a "go ahead" for litigation.

As Matt Coulson stated, this is a shipping issue. Blame has been accepted. You and GDN would be better by providing information where volunteers could sign up to help instead of signing up for a lawsuit.

Miceal O'Laochdha

This allision and resulting oil spill should properly be viewed in the context of land and air borne commercial transportation, as well.

It is a rare day that a commercial truck does not get into a significant accident on the roadways around Houston, Texas, and indeed, the nation as a whole. And many of those result in death, environmental damage and severe traffic delays that cost money to all affected commerce (collateral economic damage).

It can be fairly said that the effects of such an incident on the waterways (as in the present case) have proportionally greater impac,t to at least the environment and economy, and sometimes, even human and wild life. But, it must also be said that those land based incidents occur with radically greater frequency that water or air borne transportation incidents.

Heber is right that it is not for public officials to defend commercial interests but, it is also not for anyone public, private or the 4th estate to condemn them until a root cause investigation proves who may be deserving of sanction.

Rushes to judgment by uninformed media and the public whom they fail to serve, resulted in things like the double hull on this barge being mandated into law (anyone want to discuss how effective double hulls are after this spill?). Now, today, I hear equally ignorant cries of legal mandates to ban the use of heavy fuel as bunkers. This is as useless a solution as double hulls were but, make sense to the uninformed. The newspaper would serve the public far better to make the effort to become informed themselves and so educate the public on subjects they, quite understandably, know little or nothing about.

As long as the media fails to properly and accurately inform the public, officials will have the opening needed to pander to whichever interests (industry, environmentalists, whomever) suit their needs.

George Croix

Is 'made whole' the same as 'made rich'...

ole dad

Maybe I'm just stupid, or I've been in the aerospace industry too long but, I am thinking that there's some entity controlling the flow of traffic in the bay. If so, this is totally a process breakdown. Maybe I am stupid and there is no controlling authority of the channel "space". I really can't comprehend this spill occurring given today's technology.

Jim Forsythe

Oledad we have to wait until all the facts are in, Just today GDN reported that the bulk cargo ship had problems with its navigational equipment. This and other facts will come out in the investigation of the accident. At this time it is just speculation.


I don't know,...I just don't know,....I just don't know about all this. I know how to wear my "duckins" ( overalls )..for work. I know how to plow a field with a "hoss." I know how to lead a low performing business group to new heights of achievements and responsibilities. I know how to motivate young people by just merely talking a little old folks, back hill logic to them.
I know how to negotiate an armed criminal in a pitch dark building,...and I know who to camouflage myself and set the prettiest ambush for a Viet Cong you have ever seen!
Yet, I just don't know how we in this high tech country,.....most high tech country on the face of the earth,....CANNOT FLOAT TWO SMALL VESSELS DOWN A CHANNEL OF WATER WITHOUT THEM BASHING THE HELL OUT OF EACH OTHER!
Maybe somebody can "learn" this old Plow-boy......why they have to bash each other and spill that black stuff all over the place,...because I just don't knowwwwww.[sad]

George Croix

The answer may lie in part in the fact that cars and trucks with the most sophisticated drive and sensor systems yet produced still manage to run into each other.
The common denominator is the same, anyway.

Steve Fouga

I know nothing of the shipping industry, but I'll venture a guess that the vessels involved didn't have the world's best technology on board.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Jake: The ship had a local Pilot ($300K+ per year) on the Bridge, together with the Captain, Officer of the Watch and a Quartermaster (helmsman). They are required by law to have two simultaneously operating radars minimum (many have three for even more redundancy) at least one of which is also required by law to have a collision avoidance system incorporated. They will have an ECDIS (electronic charts of the waters being transversed) up on a monitor,( corrected up to the moment). They have electronic depth sounders and anemometers. They have a voyage data recorder (VDR, this is the marine equivalent of an airplane's "Black Box" with is recording every piece of machinery and navigation equipment, as well as the voices of everyone on the Navigating Bridge).

Much of this equipment can be found in the wheelhouse of the tug involved, as well.

They are in continuous VHF radio contact with the Pilots and Captains of all other vessels (large or small) in the vicinity on channel 16, which is continuously monitored by Coast Guard traffic (to answer Oledad's question below).

There was plenty of real time communications and plenty of technology (most of the equipment above did not exist 30 years ago (even radar only started being used regularly in the US in the late 1950's) and all the people on the ship's Bridge are rigorously examined and certified for their positions. This is true for the tug boat's crew too, albeit to a less extensive and rigorous standard than the ship.

Ship's have been successfully transiting in and out of Galveston / Texas City / Houston for many, many years before the advent of the technology on a modern ship's Bridge or even tug boat"s Wheelhouse and the licensing standards are far more thorough than they once were, as well.

Sometimes a ship or smaller vessel has a machinery failure that causes them to lose way; sometimes a mariner makes an error. It does not happen often but sometimes it does and that cannot be fixed by ever more technology. Or double hulls, either.

Steve Fouga

Thanks, miceal.

Man, a person can learn a lot through the GDN's forums! This makes me wish more than ever that the paper would provide an "open" forum, where subscribers could share knowledge and opinions on topics outside of those chosen by the paper.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Very much agree with you Jake, regarding the open forum.

The lesson about news media reporting I learned the hard way some years ago (worst oil spill in San Francisco Bay in the previous 20 years, 1996), was that when the media begins fevered reporting on a big story of which the reporters, editors, etc., have zero technical knowledge, they simply report as fact anything that anyone is prepared to provide them with in a news release or press conference while make no effort to learn if it is accurate independently by troubling to consult knowledgeable alternate sources.

Stakeholders in these incidents (and their attorneys know this well and manipulate the "news" accordingly. USCG spokesmen, including COTP's, as well as representatives and lawyers for the entities responsible for incidents like a large oil spill are especially adept at that art.

The main point is, I am aware of this when I am dealing with a subject of which I have extensive knowledge and others don't. But, I must assume when consuming the news about the many others subject of which I have little or no in-depth knowledge, the news media is doing exactly the same thing. Result: without people with expertise to weigh in on a news story at hand, all the rest of us are being fed both intentional and unintentional false information by clever stakeholders and lazy media.

At least newspapers nowadays do provide forums such as this that give the public a chance to get the real facts. Of course, that only means we are doing the newspapers work for free so they can pay their actual staff peanuts for half-baked stories.

Exceptions to that among those working for this paper are TJ Aulds and Laura Elder, who have made an effort to have dialog about details in their reports that are incomplete or inaccurate and they should be applauded for that.

Matt Coulson

I think Miceal's point is just right. The physically and intellectually lazy media, in this case Heber, will not do the work required to do their job. They end up operating on their own bias, or being spoon fed by an interested party. You would think that would get you a failing grade at newspaper college. The worst part is Heber is not alone, this is every paper, every day with a few exceptions. I think a fun contest would be to write the column you think he would write and see who comes closest to his when it hits the paper. But seriously, this has done terrible damage to America over the last 10 or 20 years. They have forgotten what a vital role they play in our democracy.

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