Port Arthur Oil Spill

A friend of mine, Rickie Petre, was working on the Port Arthur dock and took this shot of the barge torpedoing the tanker. If you look close, you can see the oil gushing out of the tear in her hull.

PORT ARTHUR, Jan. 26 — As you may have seen in the news, we had a major oil spill in our back yard, not five minutes from our plant. The U.S. Coast Guard estimated that 440,000 gallons of crude oil was spilled into the Sabine Neches Waterway. Current reports are that half the oil has been removed already. The spill occurred when the 95,660-dwt Eagle Otome tanker collided with a barge after apparently losing power.

We have been going pretty much 24 hours a day since the spill.  You know times are exciting when you can function on less than eight hours sleep in four days! Before that I had been working on support for Haiti, which has had to go on the back burner for our own disaster. According to the latest reports, the ship channel will be re-opened by this weekend. Our role has been salvage support so far, and we are moving into the pollution remediation role right now. Over a thousand people are cleaning up the spill as we speak, and probably 3-400 vacuum tankers. A sight to be seen!! We hope to recycle most of the oily water, and decontaminate the thousands of pieces of equipment used in this operation.

The official blame will take weeks or months to be finalized, but what physically happened was the tanker careened off course, driving her bow into the starboard side of a bulk carrier, leaving a 50 foot or so gash. She bounced off and was going across river, dropping an anchor to stop plowing into the opposing bank.  She cut across the bow of a push boat pushing two loaded barges. The barges cut into her at the water line like a torpedo. The two vessels were stuck together for over a day. Fortunately, there was no explosion.

This is the largest spill in Texas since 1990, when a Norwegian tanker spilled 4.3 million gallons about 60 miles off Galveston.

Michael Laws