Despite better technology and stricter safety measures, oil tanker collisions are a persistent risk in the oil industry. Sometimes, these accidents are minor, and do not cause loss of life. But even small collisions can take a heavy economic and environmental toll on the region. For example, a collision between a tanker and a tugboat in the Houston Ship Channel on May 10 caused a small chemical spill. As a result, the channel had to be closed for two days while state environmental authorities performed a cleanup operation.
Unlike this small collision, larger oil tanker collisions can be devastating. Crew members, first responders, and bystanders face danger from crushing, drowning, fire, chemical exposure, and explosions. In these cases, the responsible party must compensate the victims. And at The Krist Law Firm, P.C., our goal is to help victims obtain a settlement or court judgment that adequately compensates for their losses.
Oil Tanker Collisions in the Houston Ship Channel
No one knows why the May 10 collision happened. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating the accident. Likely causes include a failure to respect navigational rules, a technical mishap, or the negligence of an officer. Determining the cause of an accident is essential to improve safety measures in the future, and it also will allow Texas authorities to pinpoint the responsible party, who may be liable for cleanup costs.
What we do know is that a tug boat was moving two barges when it was struck by an oil tanker. The collision caused one of the barges to capsize and spill 9,000 barrels of reformate into the Houston Ship Channel. Reformate is a by-product of the process of refining crude oil into gasoline. The substance is highly toxic, and even the relatively small size of the spill caused several animals to die nearby.
To contain the spill, authorities deployed 3,800 feet of boom around the capsized barge, and another 12,000 feet along nearby shores to protect wildlife. It took two days to remove the reformate from the water, and to pump out the 25,000 tons remaining in the barges. During this time, the channel had to be shut down, which caused significant economic losses to the port and shipping companies who were forced to halt their operations.
The NTSB has had to investigate five incidents in the Houston Channel since 2014. This is the third one involving an oil tanker. The two previous spills were smaller, each resulting in approximately 5,000 and 2,000 barrels of petroleum products being spilled into the Channel. This is a relatively small amount of collisions considering how busy the channel is, but it is still possible to reduce the collision risk further with better training and equipment.
How a Maritime Injury Lawyer Can Help After an Accident
The biggest risk to maritime professionals who work in the oil industry isn’t collisions or sinkings – it’s chemical exposure. Dangerous chemicals are present at every step of the extraction, transportation, and refining process. A small slip up can have lethal effects. At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., we are dedicated to helping injured maritime professionals get the compensation they deserve after an accident. If you’ve incurred harm while on the job, do not accept a settlement before speaking with an experienced maritime attorney. It’s likely that you are entitled to more than what is being offered.