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UPDATE: Houston Ship Channel Reopens; Congresswoman Thinks Shallow Waters May Be To Blame In Collision

A Houston area lawmaker toured the Port of Houston spill and was told the ship channel will not open until authorities are satisfied that a toxic chemical in the water is recovered.


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Update 3/12/2015 9:56 a.m.:  The Houston Ship Channel fully reopened Thursday after a collision between two vessels caused the leak of a flammable gasoline additive and forced the closure of a section of the major waterway.

Authorities closed a 4-mile to 8-mile section of the channel Monday after the tanker Carla Maersk and the bulk carrier Conti Pridot crashed in foggy conditions. Nobody was hurt, but some of the Carla Maersk’s cargo of MTBE was spilled.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Dustin Williams says crews finished transferring the remaining cargo from the damaged tank early Thursday and the Carla Maersk has been moved.

High-density foam was used to suppress flammable vapors from the damaged tanks on the Carla Maersk. 

Responders continue to conduct air and water tests, which show no public health or environmental concerns.

The cause of the collision remains under investigation.


Previously: The bulk carrier involved in the accident has been moved to the Barbours Cut Terminal. Coast Guard Petty Officer Manda Emery says salvage operators are now working to secure the chemical tanker.

“What we’re doing is putting a high density foam around where the puncture is. Once that takes place, they’ll be doing a transfer of whatever the cargo is on a vessal to another vessal, then to also move the Carla Maersk as well,” says Emery.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Houston-D

Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee toured the area and commended the Coast Guard for its rapid response. Although the cause of the collision is under investigation, Jackson Lee thinks the channel’s shallow depth may have been a factor.

“I can assess that they might have been trying to be away from ashore, and therefore travel much closer together than was safe. So I do think that a widening is an issue,” says Jackson Lee.

Jackson Lee says the ship channel could use more funding to resolve that problem. It’s not known how long it’ll be before the Houston Ship Channel is reopened again. But various cargo terminals at the ports in Texas City and Galveston continue business as usual.

The Associated Press contributed to ths report.