Tanker and bulk carrier collide while passing in the Gulf of Mexico

Two large ships sailing in opposite directions suffered hull damage after a T-bone-style collision near Galveston, Texas.

The incident involving the 900-foot oil tanker Profit and the 625-foot bulk carrier Imperial Spirit occurred at about 0550 on May 30 as the ships were engaged in a passing maneuver, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The accident occurred in the Gulf of Mexico nearly 30 miles southwest of Galveston. A cause had not been announced as of July.

“It is very strange how it happened,” said Lt. Derricka DeJean, chief of investigations for Marine Safety Unit Texas City. “There were a lot of (ships) in the area, but not enough to influence the collision. It was pretty open water.”

The Coast Guard is not formally investigating the accident because it occurred in international waters. The Coast Guard gathered and reviewed evidence on the collision, but has since turned it over to each ship’s respective flag state. Profit is registered in Malta, while Imperial Spirit is Panamanian-flagged.

Profit was inbound toward the Port of Houston loaded with 19 million gallons of crude oil. Imperial Spirit was outbound from Houston en route to Nigeria with a load of grain. There were no injuries, and none of the oil escaped the tanker.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoy located in the vicinity of the accident recorded winds of about 8 mph with gusts up to 10 mph at 0530 on May 30. The buoy does not record wave height, but DeJean indicated weather is likely not a factor.

It wasn’t clear if the two vessels made passing arrangements before the collision, DeJean said. It’s also not clear which ship initiated the contact. Navigational aids that help guide the ships traveling in the shipping lanes were working at the time, she said.

“One tried to get out of the way of the other and in that case they both veered out of the safety fairway,” DeJean said. She added that both boats appeared to be within the fairway until just before the collision when “they realized something was about to happen.”

The port bow of Imperial Spirit struck the starboard side near the bow of Profit, damaging both vessels at or above the waterline. Neither vessel was in danger of sinking, the Coast Guard said.

“The Profit had lightered already and she was riding pretty high. That is probably a reason why she didn’t take on more water,” DeJean said. The ship “suffered a good amount of damage” including a deep gash to its hull.

Both ships sailed under their own power into an anchorage near Galveston for inspection. Both sustained damage that required repairs, although the Coast Guard did not provide specifics.

Profit, a Suezmax tanker built in 2009, is managed by Istanbul-based Geden Lines. The company did not respond to e-mail requests for comment on the accident.

Imperial Spirit, which was built in 2005, is operated by Hong Kong-based Northstar Ship Management. A Northstar manager declined to answer questions about the accident.

By Professional Mariner Staff