The two ships were in the process of what's called lighteringÎ¾— a procedure in which a larger ship unloads
some of its cargo to a smaller ship.
But something went wrong, causing a crack in the larger vessel. Coast Guard Petty Officer Prentice Danner says the
ship is an 820-foot Liberian tanker.
"They had a crack in their hull on one of their service tanks, not their cargo tanks and it was leaking oil. It was determined later on that 17-18,000 gallons of oil was spilled. The ship did transfer the oil out of that service tank into a different service tank, so they minimized the spill that way."
The oil spill is far enough away from land that it's not a threat to the beaches. Danner says they've dropped a dispersant on the oil. That helps break up the surface oil slicks, which mitigates damage to wildlife.
"Well it's definitely not like an Exxon-Valdez, but it's also not like a couple gallons off your pleasure craft in the harbor kind of thing. We haven't received any reports of oiled wildlife, that's not to say there isn't anything, it's just we haven't found it or had reports of it yet. But that's something we are looking into as well."
The Coast Guard is still investigating exactly what happened to cause the collision. Danner says both ship captains were tested for alcohol and drugs. Neither captain was intoxicated.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.