Kirby Inland Marine to Pay $4.9 Million

Published Sep 27, 2016 8:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

Kirby Inland Marine has agreed to pay $4.9 million in civil penalties to settle claims stemming from a 4,000-barrel oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel in March 2014, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

The company, a subsidiary of Kirby Corp, also agreed to implement operating improvements across its hundreds of vessels operating in U.S. inland waters, the department said in a statement. 

These remedial measures require Kirby to install enhanced navigational equipment on vessels, provide employee training on the new and enhanced equipment, provide additional navigation skills training, including a simulator-based exercise involving a Texas City Y scenario and improved operational practices such as entering complete tow dimensions in each vessel’s automatic identification systems before embarking on every transit.

The spill occurred on March 22, 2014, when a Kirby tow boat, the Miss Susan, was pushing two 300-foot oil barges in the “Texas City Y” area of the Houston Ship Channel in fog conditions. Despite detecting the nearby presence of a 585-foot bulk cargo ship, the Summer Wind, traveling up the Houston Ship Channel, Kirby’s tow boat and barges tried to cross the channel in front of the cargo ship.  

As a result, Kirby’s lead oil barge was struck by the cargo ship and approximately 4,000 barrels of heavy marine fuel oil spilled out of the barge into the waterway. From there, oil flowed out of the channel and spread down the Texas coastline. Approximately 160 miles of shoreline were oiled as a result of the spill, including sensitive marsh habitat, the national wildlife refuge on Matagorda Island, Mustang Island State Park and Padre Island National Seashore.

Details of the NTSB investigation are available here.