Press release

10 April, 2019

USA - Houston WGMA/PCT UPDATE

Please see below latest WGMA/PCT Update:

The US Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) held a Port Coordination Team (PCT) conference call today at 0900 hours in order to address ongoing traffic concerns due to a chemical spill from ITC in Deer Park. Your WGMA Maritime Affairs team participated on the call and has the following report for our membership: 
 
Yesterday evening, the US Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston Waterways Management department issued Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) 20-19 Daily Industry Situation Report Update 6. 

The most pertinent parts of that report are as follows:

  • Upper Houston Ship Channel remains open 24/7 for inbound traffic and open for outbound ship traffic movements into the contaminated zone between 0800-1730 managed by VTS Houston-Galveston. Today, responders have successfully completed the decontamination of 1 vessel within this area. 
  • San Jacinto River is open for 24-hour vessel traffic as managed by VTS Houston/Galveston. 
  • Old River has established a decontamination site and is currently open to “outbound traffic only” once the vessels have undergone decontamination. Today, responders have successfully completed the decontamination of 18 vessels within this area. Recovery operations will continue within this area. 
  •  Carpenter’s Bayou has established a decontamination site and is currently open to all outbound traffic and inbound traffic only which is intended for receiving/loading product to or from a facility. Today, responders have successfully completed the decontamination of 7 vessels within this area. Recovery operations will continue within this area. 
  • Jacintoport remains closed until clean-up efforts are complete with the area. 
  • Vessels that dock at a facility within the contaminated zone will be evaluated by the DECON assessment team during departure. Vessels requiring access to docks that are affected by boom will need to coordinate through VTS prior to access. Docks that are closed or restricted are listed in the enclosed attachment. 

The “enclosed attachment” is a spreadsheet (saved as a PDF) updating the status of the docks that are still closed or restricted as of 1800 hours, 09 April 2019. 

The Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) advised the current restrictions still in effect: 

  • Inbound vessels transiting through the contaminated zone are now permitted 24/7.
  • All outbound transits through the contaminated zone remain daylight restricted from 0800-1730 hours.
  • Ship traffic through the contamination zone is still limited to one-way only, no meeting or overtaking by ships is allowed within the zone. 
  • Two-way tow traffic is permitted between Houston Ship Channel Light 128 and Tuckers Bayou.
  • All vessels will be required to maintain 15-minute spacing and will be inspected upon departure from the zone for contamination. 
  • Wake and surge considerations are REQUIRED from all vessels between Light 116 and the Sam Houston Bridge. 
  • Bunkering within the containment zone is permitted; the bunker tug/barge must be inspected and may require decontamination afterwards.
  • Vessels moving into Bolivar Anchorages should be limited to short stays only, ie inspections, bunkering or storing, before moving on to their intended berth or back out to anchorage.

The USCG Captain of the Port confirmed via the VTS Director: 

  • Today they are still concentrating efforts on cleaning the spill areas that remain. Cleaning the Jacintoport slips is their main priority.
  • Larger ships that must be inspected before departure should have the inspection done at the dock, before getting underway, since they may be too deep to call at the LASH dock and otherwise there is no berth available for decontamination after departing.
  • Please ENSURE that if your ship is inbound that they are NOT going to a closed berth, or if they are headed to a restricted berth, that someone is aware that the ship is inbound and is prepared to move the boom to allow the ship alongside to moor.

Stakeholder representatives had very few priorities or concerns to share on the call. 

The Houston Pilots advised: 

  • As of this morning they have 20 arrivals and 21 departures, of which are 20 departing from within or above the zone, and 17 need to pass through or into it inbound.
  • A total of 59 ships moved yesterday, 29 inbound and 1 shift (17 inbound and the shift through the restricted area), plus 29 departures (17 from or through the zone). 

WGMA Staff comment: It is significant to note that there have been no ships that required decontamination/cleaning for the last several days.
 
The National Weather Service advised that today will be another great day with lots of sun, and a high in the upper 80s. Winds will be 10-15 knots from the south, strengthening to 15-20 knots later in the day. Overnight the winds could be even stronger but tomorrow they will diminish. Tonight, mostly clear with a low about 65 degrees. Saturday stormy weather returns, and we’ll have a chance of fog returning Thursday and Friday night before the front passes through on Saturday. 

Agents are reminded to keep the eNOA/D’s updated for their vessels, and to keep the pilots closely advised about when their ships are ready to transit, whether sailing, shifting or docking.
  
As this situation persists, there will be another PCT conference call held tomorrow at 0900 hours. Your WGMA Maritime Affairs team will participate on tomorrow's call and report to our membership. Any important updates or new MSIBs in the meantime will be reported as they are received.