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Sunken Tug, Barge Closes Upper Ship Channel To Ships

A small section of the upper ship channel was closed to deep draft ship traffic just before 6 a.m. Monday.

Investigators are trying to determine why a barge and tugboat sunk in the Houston Ship Channel early Monday morning.

The barge was moored and tied to the tugboat when it went under around 5 a.m.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Dustin Williams says it appears the barge dragged the tug under with it.

“The barge was not carrying any chemicals, it was carrying sheet metal. They’re not sure what happened, that’s under investigation. Coast guard inspectors are on the scene trying to discern exactly how that happened,” said Williams.

A small section of the upper ship channel was closed to deep draft ship traffic just before 6 a.m. Monday.

A portion of the ship channel remained open to large barge traffic, one at a time. The 1,000-yard-long section is located about 2 miles east of the Interstate 610 bridge across from the Kinder Morgan terminals in Galena Park. On Monday afternoon Coast Guard officials said there were two ships waiting to go further into the port and two waiting to come out.

The Coast Guard said they initially restricted the area to one-way traffic after learning about the incident. They deployed a boat crew and sent an Air Station Houston helicopter crew to assess the situation.

The Sector Houston-Galveston Incident Management Team deployed personnel and determined that approximately 20 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the tug, which was carrying about 300 gallons, Coast Guard.

A heavy lift cargo crane was expected to be on scene at 1 p.m. to begin work lifting the sunken tug and barge. 

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