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NTSB Issues Initial Finding on Ship Channel Collision

Federal investigators say a tugboat captain’s attempt to enter the Houston Ship Channel before a cargo ship probably led to a collision in 2014.

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A barge loaded with marine fuel oil sits partially submerged in the Houston Ship Channel, March 22, 2014. The bulk carrier Summer Wind, reported a collision between the Summer Wind and a barge, containing 924,000 gallons of fuel oil, towed by the motor vessel Miss Susan. Caption and image provided by U.S. Coast Guard

No one was injured in the collision that resulted in 4,000 barrels of oil being spilled into the water. On March 22, 2014, the two 300-foot-long barges that were being towed by the tugboat were struck by the cargo ship.

Matt Woodruff is with Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the tugboat.

“We believe the only acceptable accident rate is zero. We haven’t gotten there yet, and so we want to learn from accidents, to improve our procedures, to improve our training, and to improve our operations so that we can continually get closer to that goal of zero,” said Woodruff.

Cpt. Michael Morris is with the Houston Pilots, a group responsible for helping ships navigate the Houston Ship Channel. He says besides the the NTSB, there are other ongoing investigations into the accident. He says a state review board recommends that the pilot who was on the ship be exonerated.

“We’re still waiting on the Coast Guard report on their hearing,” said Morris.

The National Transportation Safety Board will issue a final report with safety recommendations as soon as possible.

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed from an earlier version to correct two errors: 1.) A tugboat captain is not a pilot. 2.) The state review board recommends that the pilot of the ship involved in the collision be exonerated. We regret the errors.

Related: 

Synopsis of the NTSB’s report

Legal Battle Begins Over Galveston Bay Oil Spill

Refineries, Petrochemical Plants May Take Hit From Ship Channel Closure

Ship Channel Backup Could Cost Houston If Not Cleared Soon

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