Tanker collision causes disruption in Houston channel

Shell relocates Houston staff
Houston, Texas

A Venezuela-bound tanker has spilled an unknown amount of petrol additive MTBE into the Houston ship channel after a crash with another vessel, shutting down a portion of the waterway and a container terminal.

The Carla Maersk, a 45,000-deadweight tonne tanker, was heading out of the ship channel and had set course for Amuay Bay in Venezuela at the time of the collision with the MV Conti Peridot, a 57,000-deadweight tonne bulk carrier that was traveling into the channel, according to vessel tracking data.

A total of 28 ships were waiting to enter the area this morning, with 21 waiting to leave, US Coast Guard Andy Kendrick said.

A roughly one-mile stretch of the channel north of Galveston Bay was closed during the cleanup and response, according to Brian Sadler, a watch supervisor with the Coast Guard’s vessel traffic service.

Operations at the Barbours Cut container terminal at the mouth of Galveston Bay were suspended after the crash.

The collision in the 52-mile long waterway, through which about 400 vessels pass every day, comes nearly a year after another crash closed the entire channel for three days.

Thick fog was enveloping the Houston area around the time of the latest collision, which happened on Monday.

The Carla Maersk, which had a cargo of 216,000 barrels of MTBE, suffered a breach in three tanks but no product is leaking from above the waterline. It is not yet clear if leaks below that level have been contained.