Fuel barges need lightering after grounding near Houston Ship Channel in Galveston Bay

Two barges ran aground after breaking away from their towboat near the Houston Ship Channel in Galveston Bay. Lightering was necessary to refloat them.

The towing vessel Capt. Hard and its reassembled tow sail back to a berth to be reloaded with cargo following a lightering operation in the Houston Ship Channel. The 297-foot barges had broken free from the towboat and grounded. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

The accident occurred at about 1845 June 22, 2011, as the towboat Capt. Hard was pushing the 297-foot barges Buffalo 802 and 803 in the vicinity of Dickinson Bayou Channel Day Beacon 1. All aids to navigation in the area were on station and functioning properly.

"The wire cables that held the two barges together in the tow parted due to bad weather," said U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. j.g. Alfred Betts.

Betts said that the barges grounded in soft bottom while the 800-hp towboat remained afloat. At the time of the accident, there was fog and choppy seas, he said. The wind was about 10 knots. Earlier that afternoon the wind had been approximately 20 knots with gusts to 30 knots, according to the National Weather Service.

Hard's Marine Service of Channelview, Texas, the owner of the 51-foot Capt. Hard, did not reply to a request for comment.

The owner of the barges, Buffalo Marine Service of Houston, dispatched the barge Buffalo 300 to lighter that cargo of No. 6 oil so that the grounded barges could be refloated. Approximately 18,000 barrels were transferred to Buffalo 300 on June 23. The barge owner also contracted T&T Marine Salvage of Galveston to stand by with the Coast Guard during the lightering.

Once lightered and refloated, the tow was reassembled and transited south to Pelican Island near Bolivar Roads where the original cargo was reloaded. The Coast Guard inspected the towboat and barges for damage. None was found and the towboat and cargo made way for Port Arthur, Texas, their original destination.

At the time of the grounding the two barges, which held nearly 45,000 barrels of No. 6 oil between them, were constrained by a draft of about 10 to 12 feet. Soundings in the vicinity of the grounding range between 6 to 12 feet.

There were no injuries or environmental damage and no further investigation is planned by the Coast Guard.

By Professional Mariner Staff