Two ships collided in foggy conditions in the Houston Ship Channel on Monday, causing a spill of gasoline additive MTBE and shelter-in-place order for 300 nearby residents.
At about 12:30 p.m. near Morgan’s Point, bulk carrier the Conti Peridot and chemical tanker the Carla Maersk collided. Three of the Carla Maersk’s port tanks were ruptured.
The 600-foot Carla Maersk carried 216,000 barrels of MTBE, which began leaking into the water after the collision with the 623-foot Conti Peridot. The spill was stopped by 3:30 p.m. but responders hadn’t yet determined how much had leaked into the channel. The waterway was closed to traffic in both directions after the accident.
Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether, or MTBE, is a flammable liquid with a strong odor and can cause dizziness and suffocation. Two dock workers who were overcome by the fumes were taken to a local hospital. No other injuries were reported.
“This chemical, when it’s in liquid form will float on water and is toxic to both people and wildlife – you will smell this chemical long before you reach toxic levels and we encourage anyone on the water to stay away from areas where you can smell this,” U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
Air monitoring thus far shows that fumes are present by below toxic levels. Air quality testing was continuing throughout the area. Residents in nearby communities of Morgan’s Point, Baytown and La Porte are encouraged to continue to monitor local emergency notification systems for updates and instructions.
A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have been dispatched to the scene of the accident. Although conditions were reported as foggy at the time of the incident, Coast Guard Petty Officer Manda Emery said it was too soon to say if rain and fog were to blame for the collision.
This was the second collision in a week in the highly-trafficked Houston Ship Channel, which connects the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Houston. The port is home to the largest petrochemical complex in the nation and one of the largest in the world. Approximately 70 ships, as well as 300 to 400 tugs and barges, travel the channel every day.
Help for Injured Seamen and Dock Workers
In an accident such as this, many types of maritime workers can be affected, from the seamen working the vessels that collided to the dock workers who were affected by fumes from the spill.
Jones Act seamen who are injured or become ill as the result of an accident while working on a shop may be entitled to maintenance and cure, as well as other damages. Dock workers may qualify for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.
When you are affected by toxic exposure in the workplace, whether your job is in the port or on a vessel, it’s important to know your rights. The Houston maritime attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers have more than 100 years of combined experience in representing injured workers. We have helped hundreds of clients recover compensation under the Jones Act, LHWCA and general maritime laws. Contact us today for to schedule a free consultation.