USCG Investigates Close Approach Between LNG Carrier and Ferry

Published Aug 15, 2019 9:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating a near-miss incident at Port Aransas, Texas in which an LNG carrier passed close to a loaded ferry, causing the ferry's crew to evacuate passengers.

At about 0900 hours Monday, a ferry at Port Aransas was loading and preparing to depart the landing located on the south (outbound) side of the Corpus Christi ship channel. The inbound LNG carrier Kinisis approached the ferry landing and sounded a danger signal with her horn. The ferry's crew ordered all passengers off the vessel and onto shore. No allision occurred, and the LNG carrier continued past the ferry landing in the inbound direction. 

A bystander told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that it appeared that the LNG carrier had altered course to transit past a dredger which was working in the channel. The course change may have caused it to pass close to the ferry terminal, and the bystander said that the vessel's tug escorts may have acted to help avert the possibility of an allision. 

In a statement, LNG terminal operator Cheniere Energy said that it takes safe navigation seriously. According to the company, marine pilots confirmed that the vessel "took a wider turn than usual at Harbor Island due to the placement of another vessel in the channel." The company said that despite the danger signal, which was "a precaution," the LNG carrier "was always in control." Cheniere emphasized that the LNG carrier had operated in coordination with the port authority and the Coast Guard during the evolution. 

Environmental activist John Morris of the Port Aransas Conservancy characterized the incident differently. "It was a near miss,” he told local TV media. “There’s no way to way to candy coat when you're less than 100 feet from a stationary object on the opposite side of the channel.”

AIS tracking shows the Kinisis departed the Corpus Christi LNG terminal on Tuesday, bound for France. 

The 95,000 dwt Kinisis is substantially smaller than the 200,000 dwt-plus VLCCs that the Port of Corpus Christi hopes to welcome to a proposed crude oil terminal at Harbor Island. The plan is locally controversial, especially in Port Aransas, where residents have expressed safety concerns over the interactions that large VLCCs and other vessels would have with the dredgers required to create and maintain the channel. The project calls for dredging the entrance channel to 75 feet in order to accommodate laden VLCCs, with annual maintenance dredging of about one million cubic yards, according to the Port Aransas Conservancy.