Crews Sunday continued their work on two barges involved in a collision late Friday, unloading cargo and partially reopening the Houston Ship Channel to maritime traffic, officials announced.
About 3:30 p.m. Friday, a 755-foot tanker ship collided with a tugboat pushing two barges near Baytown, causing one barge to capsize and piercing another, causing it to begin leaking a feedstock blend called Reformate similar to automobile gasoline.
Each of the barges was fully loaded with about 25,000 barrels of the product, and about 9,000 barrels had leaked into the ship channel by Saturday.
The chemical can be flammable and toxic when inhaled, ingested or in contact with skin, League City officials said.
Officials also closed the Houston Ship Channel because of the collision, but by late Sunday it reopened to some traffic. About 47 outbound vessels and 48 inbound vessels are still waiting to travel through the channel, but one-way ship traffic and two-way barge traffic resumed by Sunday afternoon, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials.
Salvage crews also secured the two barges and worked Sunday to remove cargo, officials said. Once all the cargo is removed, the barges can then be moved.
More than 334 personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office and barge owner Kirby Inland Marine, among others, have responded to the unified command post and crews have deployed about 20,550 feet of containment and absorbent boom, officials said.
Officials have also expanded the navigation safety zone around the barges to include the area from the western shores of lower Galveston Bay, extending south to San Leon and east up to but not including the Houston Ship Channel and then north up to but not including the Bayport Ship Channel, officials said. Boaters are prohibited from leaving Clear Creek into the bay, officials said.
People wanting to report fish or wildlife that might have been affected should call 979-215-8835, officials said.