Houston Ship Channel reopens after tanker fire (with VIDEO)

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(HOUSTON) — The Coast Guard captain of the port reopened the Houston Ship Channel to all vessel traffic at 3:31 p.m. Tuesday.

The Upper Houston Ship Channel was closed at 12:08 a.m. immediately following a bunker fuel spill and fire from Aframax River, an 810-foot tanker.

"This incident could have been much worse, but was mitigated due to the prompt and effective response of two Port of Houston Authority fireboats," said Capt. Peter Martin, the captain of the port and commander of Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston. "Additionally, environmental response experts from the Texas General Land Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were critical to assessing and mitigating the pollution threat while Harris County sheriff's deputies enforced the federal safety zone to ensure public safety."

The tanker was not loaded with cargo, but is believed to have had as much as 90,000 gallons of low sulfur diesel in the bunker tank that was breached. Much of the fuel that came out of the ship burned, leaving only a light sheen on the water at daybreak and small pockets of recoverable fuel near the shoreline.

Coast Guard incident management personnel are overseeing cleanup and response operations by OMI Environmental Solutions. Investigators have begun looking into the cause of the incident and will be working with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Click here to view a video of the tanker fire.


(HOUSTON) — The Houston Ship Channel is closed to all traffic for one mile southwest of the battleship Texas state historic site, between the Cargill facility and the Cemex dock, as teams respond to leaked fuel oil from a ship Tuesday morning.

Around midnight, a pilot aboard the 810-foot tanker Aframax River notified Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston watch standers that the tanker was on fire near the Intercontinental Terminals Co. It was reported that a bunker tank was punctured and caught fire. The tanker was not carrying any product when the incident occurred.

Coast Guard Station Houston and Station Galveston boat crews, two Port of Houston Authority fireboats and Harris County Sheriff's Office marine division responded. 

The Houston Ship Channel was closed at 12:08 a.m., and the Coast Guard established a safety zone from the Cargill facility to the Cemex docks.

The fire has been extinguished and all tanker crewmembers are accounted for with no injuries reported.

A Port of Houston fireboat and Coast Guard investigators will remain on scene.

By Professional Mariner Staff