It is estimated that as much as 168,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Galveston channel after a collision between a Liberian-flagged ship and a barge carrying the oil occurred at just after noon on Saturday.
The barge, owned by Kirby Inland Marine, was carrying as much as a million gallons of oil and had one of its tanks ruptured in the collision, stopping traffic in the Houston ship channel. Approximately 60 ships have been delayed. The 585-foot Liberian-flagged “Summer Wind” reported the spill right after the collision.
All of the remaining oil has since been removed from the partially submerged barge.
Also halted was sport fishing at the popular Texas City Dike area. The area was due for its first real weekend of fishing for the season. Already, the seaward side of the dike has seen tar-like residue coming ashore along with tarballs. There are now also reports of oil washing ashore on Galveston’s East Beach.
The spill also occurred during the peak of the shorebird migration. Ruddy Turnstones, Laughing Gulls and American White Pelicans are already showing up at the Bolivar Flats Bird Sanctuary with oiled feathers. 50,000 to 70,000 birds show up at the sanctuary annually. Flights are still in the process of assessing the damage to the wetlands and wildlife in the area.
Five skimmers are working to clean up the mess and over 90,000 feet of containment boom has been deployed. Oil has been detected over 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
The United States Coast Guard and NTSB are investigating the cause of the collision.
This newest spill comes on the 25th anniversary of the massive Exxon Oil Spill in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989. That 11 million gallon spill devastated the shoreline throughout the Sound and reached even the shores of Kodiak Island.