Tankers collide in Gulf of Mexico in clear weather and calm seas

Two tankers – one filled with more than 10 million gallons of gasoline – collided in clear weather and calm seas in the Gulf of Mexico in September.

The bow of Vega shows damage from its collision with another tanker. Vega was carrying 10 million gallons of gasoline, none of which spilled.

The collision could have been catastrophic, given that the tanker Vega, which has a cargo capacity of nearly 300,000 barrels, had just taken on a full load of gasoline. The tanker Gus W. Darnell, which was empty at the time, sustained a series of gashes that stretched about 200 feet along its port side, said Lt. Greg Crettol of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Port Arthur, Texas.

Crettol said it was fortunate that the hull of Vega wasn’t breached and that the accident didn’t result in an explosion or a spill. “This could have been much worse,” he said.

The collision occurred at about 0400 on Sept. 10 while the vessels were underway at 12 knots, approximately 60 miles south of Port Arthur near the Texas-Louisiana border.

The 613-foot Vega, flagged in the Marshall Islands and owned and operated by Overseas Shipholding Group Inc. of New York, was outbound from Galveston Bay fully loaded with gasoline. The 615-foot Gus W. Darnell, which is U.S.-flagged and operated by Ocean Ships Inc., Houston, was empty and headed toward Houston. The Gus W. Darnell is part of the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command’s Sealift Program, transporting fuel for the Department of Defense.

The collision caused extensive damage to both vessels. Crettol said Gus W. Darnell had a series of gashes 20 to 40 feet long, extending 200 feet on its port side about 15 feet above the waterline. Vega’s starboard bow was also extensively damaged, he said.

The accident occurred in clear weather with calm seas – ideal sailing conditions. Crettol said it is likely the cause will be human error, because no equipment malfunctions have been identified.

“Both sides think the other side did something wrong,” he said.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

By Professional Mariner Staff