Barge catches fire after collision in Houston Ship Channel

U.S. Coast Guard controls fire after tug boat collision

By Phil Archer - Reporter , Sofia Ojeda - Anchor/Reporter

GALVESTON, Texas - A section of the Intercoastal Waterway remains closed after barge carrying about a million gallons of petroleum was engulfed in flames after two tug boats collided off Point Bolivar early Monday morning, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Intercoastal Waterway from marker #348 to the Houston Ship Channel reopened at 9:15 p.m. Monday. The collision happened near where the Intercoastal Waterway intersects Houston Ship Channel Traffic.

The ship channel remained open following the collision.

Each of the tugs had two barges in tow. They collided after the captain of the tug boat"Shorty C" reported losing power around 1:30 a.m. His lead barge collided with one of those being towed by the tug "Jackie," filled with about one million gallons of highly flammable naphtha. Naphtha is used as a fuel additive and in solvents.

"There are multiple containers, tanks within the barge and each tank holds a significant amount of the product. Flammability is a obviously a concern, the fire this morning, trying to keep it under control and contained," says Petty Officer Andy Kendrick, U.S. Coast Guard.

It took salvage crews about hours to get the fire under control. Investigators say it's not clear if the fire was fueled by the naphtha on board, or by diesel fuel.

"The pumps and other things on board these barges are run by diesel, so there's diesel containers on board, and there's a possibility that diesel caught on fire and my have been what was burning." Kendrick said.

Now officials are keeping people from that area, and as a precaution containment booms have been put in place as a precaution across the entrance to Horseshoe Lake on the Bolivar Peninsula.

"The fire was pretty extensive all that damage, will be looked at to see how extensive it was and to see if there was any kind of impact to the environment," says Kendrick.

Monday afternoon two off the undamaged barges were towed to port to be unloaded. A third is expected to be moved by the end off the day. Coast Guard investigators say they don't expect to move.

No injuries have been reported.

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