HOUSTON — The Coast Guard Captain of the Port reopened the Houston Ship Channel to all vessel traffic at 3:31 p.m. Tuesday.
The Upper Houston Ship Channel was closed at 12:08 a.m., immediately following a bunker fuel spill and fire from the Aframax River, an 810-foot tanker. Around midnight, a pilot aboard the 810-foot tanker, Aframax River, notified Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston watchstanders that the tanker was on fire near the Intercontinental Terminals Company. It was reported that a bunker tank was punctured and caught fire. The tanker was not loaded and carrying product when the incident occurred.
“This incident could have been much worse, but was mitigated due to the prompt and effective response of two Port of Houston Authority fire boats,” said Capt. Peter Martin, the Captain of the Port and commander of Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston. “Additionally, environmental response experts from the Texas General Land Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were critical to assessing and mitigating the pollution threat while Harris County Sheriff’s deputies enforced the federal safety zone to ensure public safety.”
The tanker was not loaded with cargo, but is believed to have had as much as 90 thousand gallons of low sulfur diesel in the bunker tank that was breached. Much of the fuel that came out of the ship burned up, leaving only a light sheen on the water at daybreak and small pockets of recoverable fuel near the shoreline.
Coast Guard incident management personnel are overseeing cleanup and response operations by OMI Environmental Solutions. Investigators have begun looking into the cause of the incident and will be working with the National Transportation Safety Board.