Blog

On Friday, May 10, the Houston shipping channel was the scene of a barge crash that resulted in chemicals leaking into the waterways and causing some panic in nearby communities.

Details About the Houston Barge Accident

At approximately 3:30 p.m. on Friday, a horrific scenario occurred near Bayport, Texas when a 755-foot tanker collided with a tugboat pushing two barges. The impact was so severe that one of the barges capsized while the other was damaged. This resulted in approximately 9,000 gallons of reformate, a petroleum product, to leak into the waters.

Port officials said the crash occurred near Light 73 in the Bayport Channel.

“The tanker vessel called ‘Genesis River’ was carrying liquefied gas (LNG) when it hit the towing vessel ‘Voyager’,” the U.S. Coast Guard stated. “Reformate, a product used in blending gasoline is colorless, flammable and toxic to marine life.”         

The crash closed down the Houston Ship Channel while cleanup began.

As per the Coast Guard, there were no injuries, but environmental monitoring was in place all weekend. Federal and local agencies have also come in to assist with the cleanup.

Officials said about 2,700 air monitoring samples from the area have been tested, but none of them exceeded ‘established action levels’, and thus there was no health risk.

The waters continue to be tested and thousands of fish washed ashore dead.

Common Barge Accident Injuries

While, thankfully, there were no major injuries reported in this incident, a barge accident can very easily lead to catastrophic damages and loss of life. Some of the most common causes of barge accidents include:  

  • Collisions with other barges
  • Collisions with other vessels
  • Collisions with docks or port equipment
  • Line handling
  • Tripping
  • Falling
  • Fires
  • Hazardous chemical spills

Barge accidents generally occur near ports as the vessels spend the majority of their time in these types of waters. Common injuries that occur in barge accidents include:

  • Amputations
  • Pinch-point injuries to your hands
  • Crush injuries
  • Fire burns
  • Chemical burns
  • Inhalation of toxic fumes
  • Herniated discs
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Strains and sprains

The Jones Act offers legal remedy to maritime workers who are injured while on the job. An employer may be held liable for any injury arising in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents or employees of the employer, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency of equipment due to negligence of the employer.

As the employee, it will be up to you to prove negligence. The negligent act is not required to be the sole proximate cause of the injury.

Employer/owner negligence has been determined to include incidents such as: failure to maintain safe equipment and appliances; care in selecting a competent master and fellow crewmen; assaults by fellow crewmen within scope of work; negligent orders; requiring overtime; failure to avoid heavy weather; failure to provide medical treatment; failure to rescue; and failure to supervise, among others.

Statistics About Barge Accidents

Human error is a factor in most barge accidents and played a prominent role in the incident in Bayport. Human errors can include:

  1. A lack of proper safety training
  2. Usage of poorly maintained equipment
  3. Having unsafe barges
  4. A barge operator that is distracted or impaired
  5. Traveling at unsafe speeds
  6. Unfamiliarity with local hazards
  7. A relaxed safety environment

According to the American Waterways Operators 2017 Annual Safety Report:

  • There were six operational towing vessel crew fatalities.
  • According to Coast Guard records, 84,319 gallons of oil were spilled as a result of 49 tank barge incidents in 2017.
  • The oil spill rate has been approximately 1.13 gallons of oil spilled for every million gallons transported or one gallon of oil spilled for every 885,000 gallons transported.
  • There were 934 towing vessel incidents, of which 82 percent were classified as low severity incidents. The medium and high severity incidents represented 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
  • There were also 89 injuries, as a result of 89 incidents involving a crew member where vessel “class” or “service” was recorded as “towing vessel” or “barge.”

Recoverable Damages Under the Jones Act

Most workers can receive workers compensation under the Jones Act. Damages permitted under the Jones Act include:

  • Medical expense, pain, and suffering
  • Loss of wages
  • Loss of support to the seaman’s widow or dependents
  • Loss of value of household services, nurture, etc.
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of fringe benefits and mental anguish

Have you been injured in a barge accident or other maritime accident? The Houston maritime attorneys at Lapeze & John are ready to serve you.

Contact us right now at (713) 766-4855 to schedule your completely FREE legal consultation.

 

Source: NY Daily News