Port Arthur Waterway Opened to Limited Traffic

The waterways surrounding a major southern port in Texas closed due to an oil spill in the channel last Saturday. The waterway reopened to limited traffic Wednesday morning.

According to official reports, over 530,000 gallons of oil and water mixture were recovered from the port of Port Arthur, Texas after an oil spill left 11,000 barrels in the 60-mile Sabine-Neches Waterway from an Exxon-Mobile-chartered tanker.

All vessel traffic was closed along the city of Port Arthur's river front from the Intracoastal Waterway mile marker 276 and 289. After moving the tanker to the Sunoco oil terminal in Beaumont Tuesday night, the Coast Guard opened the channel to limited traffic Wednesday. The M/V Patriot transited the waterway to the Port of Beaumont Wednesday morning without any necessary clean up and 10 others departed outbound in the afternoon. Wide-body daylight restricted tankers began inbound transition Thursday morning.

The AET Inc.-owned oil tanker Eagle Otome, collided with the towing vessel Dixie Vengeance, and the two barges it was pushing early Saturday morning as the tanker was refueling from a barge. The tanker sustained a 15 foot by 8 foot hole in the vicinity of the number one starboard tank and released over 450,000 gallons of crude oil it was transporting. The tanker was en route to an Exxon-Mobile Corp. refinery in nearby Beaumont with roughly 570,000 gallons of crude.

After the Vessel Traffic Service Port Arthur received notification of the accident, Coast Guard and local agencies immediately formed a Unified Command in response. Emergency workers initially called for an evacuation of the tanker and the Coast Guard later implemented a voluntary evacuation within a 50 block area. Residents from the Ship Channel to 7th Street and from Houston Avenue to Beaumont Avenue were provided free transportation to a shelter nearby.

Jefferson County Emergency Management and the Coast Guard sent helicopters to the area to assess damage. More than 500 workers helped 15 skimmers sail the area, recovering oil and dropped more than 45,000 feet of boom to prevent further disbursement. The Coast Guard also employed 20 boats with high pressure cleaning equipment for the task.

The National Transportation Safety Board launched a team to participate with the Coast Guard in the investigation. They are reviewing radio transmissions and the ship's log and are interviewing witnesses to determine the cause of the collision. AET, Inc. cooperated with clean up efforts and investigations. Sensitive wildlife areas nearby were unscathed and no injuries reported.