The Business Times

Collision of vessels in Houston exposes risks in busy channel

Last month's crash highlights fragility of critical bottleneck

Published Sun, Apr 6, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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[HOUSTON] The crash last month in the Houston Ship Channel that caused 4,000 barrels of fuel oil to spill and disrupted about US$1.5 billion in commerce in the US's largest export gateway, highlights the fragility of a critical bottleneck in the country's energy network where about 400 vessels pass each day.

The Summer Wind, a 585-foot Liberian-flagged vessel operated by Cleopatra Shipping Agency Ltd, was travelling at 12 knots, and the Miss Susan, a Kirby Inland Marine LP tug that was towing a barge carrying fuel oil, at four knots, when the crew members started communicating at about 12:30pm, five minutes before the collision on March 22, US Coast Guard recordings and radar data show.

Investigators are looking into "all the factors that give pilots wrinkles around the eyes", including speed, navigation decisions, visibility and weather, Steven Nerheim, director of the Coast Guard's Vessel Traffic Service for Houston-Galveston, said on March 31. He said he hasn't seen any indication that "malfeasance" or "impaired mariners" contributed to the accident.

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