Houston Ship Channel

Tanker's Speed an Issue in 2019 Barge Collision, NTSB Finds

A new report on a 2019 collision in the Houston Ship Channel finds that the speed of one of the tankers was a major issue

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A 2019 collision in the Houston Ship Channel that caused thousands of barrels of petrochemicals to spill into the waterway was in part caused by one tanker traveling at "sea speed" in the narrow channel, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report Tuesday.

The collision occurred when a tanker hit a barge that was carrying a gasoline product. No one was hurt, but about 11,000 barrels of the chemical spilled into Texas' Upper Galveston Bay.

The NTSB report found that the tanker was traveling at "sea speed," which is generally used in the open ocean because of a limited ability to change speed during an emergency. Doing so in the Houston Ship Channel "left little margin for error and introduced unnecessary risk," investigators said.

"Operating at sea speed reduces the ability to maneuver out of a dangerous situation," said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. "This is especially true in the Houston Ship Channel, a challenging waterway with a long history of accidents."

In its report Tuesday, the NTSB recommended that pilots of large vessels avoid using sea speed in the lower Houston Ship Channel.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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