Barge strike in Galveston causes oil spill, bridge closure

(HOUSTON) — A barge carrying petroleum products struck a bridge in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday morning, resulting in a spill and causing Pelican Island to be inaccessible to vehicle traffic, Houston Public Media reported.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the incident, which was reported to Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston watch standers at 9:48 a.m. The impact resulted in a temporary power outage on Pelican Island, which is north of Galveston Island and home to Texas A&M University at Galveston. The Galveston County Office of Emergency Management said at about 1 p.m. that electricity had been restored.

Galveston County Office of Emergency Management photo

The barge that struck the Pelican Island Bridge, the 321-foot MMLP 321, is owned by New York-based Martin Petroleum and was carrying vacuum gas oil, the Office of Emergency Management said. The Coast Guard, which has established a Unified Command and Joint Information Center, reported that the allision was due to break in the coupling.

One of the barge’s cargo tanks was compromised, causing vacuum gas oil to spill into the water. The amount was still being determined, but the source has been contained. The Coast Guard said 3,000 feet of boom has been deployed and additional oil spill assets were responding to the incident. A Coast Guard Air Station Houston overflight as well as drones were being deployed to evaluate the extent of the oil spill.

“The capacity of the barge is 30,000 gallons and the amount that has leaked out is unknown,” the Office of Emergency Management wrote in a social media post Wednesday. “Vehicle traffic across the Pelican Island Bridge has been halted. Vessel traffic in the channel has also been halted.”

The damaged bridge, which is under the jurisdiction of Galveston County Navigational District 1 (GCND1), was being assessed by GCND1 with the assistance of the Texas Department of Transportation.

The bridge was open to car traffic leaving Pelican Island and pedestrian traffic both ways on Thursday. The condition of the bridge could change throughout as the damage is evaluated. Pedestrian traffic entering the island is only open to residents, employees, and students of Texas A&M.

Involved with the incident response are Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Texas City, Coast Guard Air Station Houston, Coast Guard Station Galveston, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas General Land Office, Texas A&M, Galveston County Office of Emergency Management, Galveston County Police Department and the Galveston Fire Department.

By Professional Mariner Staff