Bunker barge strikes docked ro-ro, leaks fuel in Port Arthur


More than 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from a bunker barge after it struck a docked roll-on/roll-off cargo ship (ro-ro) in Port Arthur, Texas.

The accident occurred at about 1600 on Aug. 29 as the 1,000-hp towboat Savage Pathfinder approached the ro-ro Endurance while pushing a single fuel barge. The barge, CBR 2017, made contact with the ship’s transom, tearing open a cargo trunk extending from the deck of the barge.

“The transom on this ship is almost like a half moon, and the (ship’s) bottom portside caught the trunk of the barge and opened it up like a can opener,” said Aaron Heniger, chief investigator with U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Port Arthur.

The incident happened while the 868-foot ship was awaiting fuel at dock No. 4 at the Port of Port Arthur. No injuries were reported. The cause remains under investigation.

Savage Pathfinder and CBR 2017 approached the docked ship from behind. The towboat was shifting the bunker barge on behalf of a separate company that was assisting with fueling the ship. The impact tore a 3-by-4-foot gash in the No. 2 starboard trunk top, allowing fuel to spill into the waterway. The Coast Guard said the source of the leak was “secured” shortly after the accident.

“Immediately upon receiving notice of the incident, we dispatched our designated oil spill removal organization (OSRO), which promptly notified all applicable authorities on Savage’s behalf and deployed containment booms,” said Jeff Hymas, a spokesman for Savage Marine, which owns the towboat.

The Coast Guard and Texas General Land Office oversaw the spill response, which started on Aug. 29 and continued until Sept. 2. Over the next five days, various absorbent materials were used to capture fuel on the surface.

Karina Erickson, a spokeswoman for the Texas General Land Office, said responders used 416 bales of boom and 55 bales of sorbent pads to trap and remove the spilled fuel.

“Additionally, 2,800 gallons of oily water mixture was recovered with on-scene skimming equipment and vacuum trucks,” she said in an email, noting that the spill did not cause any “measurable environmental impact.”

An estimated 13,272 gallons of diesel spilled into the port waterway located alongside Sabine Lake. Authorities aren’t sure how much fuel was recovered.

Savage Marine, based in Midvale, Utah, confirmed basic details about the incident and spill response while noting the cause of the accident remains under investigation.

American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier (ARC) owns the ro-ro, which carries military vehicles, aircraft and other equipment for the U.S. government. The company acknowledged the incident in a news release but declined to comment beyond its initial statement.

By Professional Mariner Staff