Search Called Off for Two Fishermen Missing in Tanker Collision

The stern of the Pappy's Pride protruding above the waterline, January 15 (USCG)

Published Jan 16, 2020 1:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

Search efforts have been suspended for two missing crewmembers of the fishing vessel that collided with a product tanker in the Galveston Bay Entrance Channel on Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Thursday afternoon. Responders searched nearly 50 square miles for the two men.

“It is never an easy decision to suspend a search," said Cmdr. Jordan Baldueza, Sector Houston-Galveston search and rescue mission coordinator. “Our hearts are with the families, friends and loved ones of every individual involved in this tragic event. Responders from multiple federal, state and local agencies, as well as multiple good Samaritans, have worked tirelessly over the past three days to conduct aerial flights, shore patrols and maritime searches."

At 1535 hours Tuesday, Vessel Traffic Service Houston-Galveston was notified of four people in the water after a collision between the 80-foot fishing boat Pappy's Pride and the 600-foot chemical tanker Bow Fortune near the Galveston jetties, two man-made spits of rock in the Galveston Bay Entrance Channel. 

Sector Houston-Galveston issued an urgent marine information broadcast and launched two Station Galveston response boat crews to the scene. Two of the fishing vessel's crewmembers were pulled from the water by the crew of a good Samaritan vessel and a response boat crew. One of the two rescuees died at the hospital and one survived, according to the Galveston Beach Patrol. The remaining two fishermen are missing. 

A containment boom has been placed around the capsized fishing vessel, and teams are conducting shoreline assessments to determine the spill's impact. Oily sheens have been reported near the wreck. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the maximum potential amount of the release is 14,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

The unified command has tapped the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund in order to hire a local recovery organization to conduct pollution abatement and to lighter off the vessel's remaining fuel. Salvage of the Pappy's Pride will be contracted through the vessel's insurance underwriters.

The Bow Fortune is currently moored in Galveston, and her crew is safe and accounted for. Her hull integrity is intact and there is no pollution stemming from the ship, operator Odfjell said. 

In a statement, Odfjell said that the Bow Fortune was under pilotage and operating in foggy conditions at the time of the collision. The cause of the incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.