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April 28th, 2014

Lawsuit Accuses Ship Involved in Galveston Bay Oil Spill of Speeding

In a lawsuit filed in federal court last week, the Liberian bulk carrier involved in the March 22 Galveston Bay oil spill has been accused of speeding despite heavy fog conditions.

The owner of the towboat and barge that were struck and sank, causing almost 170,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil to leak into the bay, says the Liberian vessel was speeding, did not take evasive action, and proved to be “dangerous” and “unseaworthy.”

The collision occurred at 12:35 p.m. in foggy conditions. Minutes before, the towboat captain had announced on public U.S. Coast Guard radio channel the intention to cross the Houston Ship Channel at the Texas City Y. The Miss Susan began to cross at about 7 mph, pushing two barges. Coast Guard records indicate the Liberian ship approached more rapidly.

Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the towboat the Miss Susan, did not concede any fault in the accident. The company is seeking compensation from Sea Galaxy Marine, the owner of the bulk carrier M/V Summer Wind, for losses “in excess of $10 million.”

“While the Summer Wind knew of the Miss Susan’s position, at no time did it attempt to adjust its speed or heading to avoid the vessel,” Kirby’s filing alleges. “The collision occurred, among other reasons, due to the Summer Wind’s excessive, unreasonable speed.”

Sea Galaxy already filed a “limitation of liability,” claiming it was not responsible for the accident. The company said in its filing that the vessel was properly operated and not unseaworthy but “in fact, tight, staunch, strong, properly and sufficiently manned, crewed, supplied, equipped and furnished, and well and sufficiently fitted with suitable engines (and) machinery… ,” the filing states.

The limited liability request seeks no more than the $9.3 million value of the 19-year-old bulk carrier.

Kirby has also announced an intention to file a limitation of liability.

The Houston maritime law firm of Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers represents individuals and businesses affected by oil spills.

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