The bulk carrier Summer Wind collided with an oil barge near the Texas City Dike on March 22, 2014. The collision has resulted in 168,000 gallons of oil spilled into Galveston Bay. Many vessels are participating in the clean-up efforts. Part of the marine traffic in the Houston Ship Channel is suspended due to the clean-up operation. The ferry making the connection between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula also is suspended.
Many vessels from the Gulf of Mexico must wait until the channel is opened. More than 30 ships are hoping to depart from Galveston Bay. The marine traffic in the Houston Ship Channel could be suspended for several days, even for weeks until responders clear the water from the oil spill. A cargo tank of the barge (having on board 924, 000 gallons of oil) was damaged during the collision with the 585-foot (185m.) bulk carrier Summer Wind. Skimming vessel were dispatched to the location of the incident to hold up the oil spill.
The oil on the barge has been removed, but there is no information for the moment how much oil was spilled into the water. Shortly after the ship collision, it was reported a sheen of oil. The authorities discovered that the oil in the water was a special bunker fuel oil used in shipping. The U.S. Coast Guard informed that this was a serious oil spill incident.
Response teams had to use a 90,000 feet of containment boom, including barriers in an attempt to prevent ecological disaster to the Big Reef at the end of Galveston Island and Little Pelican Island.
The air quality is constantly being monitored by the authorities for the health-threatening hydrogen sulfide and other dangerous gases.
There are reports for sticky black tar from the oil spill seen onto the Texas City Dike beach and on Galveson's East Beach. Volunteers are doing everything possible to clear the oil and to help the affected animals (but only trained volunteers work with the affected animals). The oil spill could affect seriously the birds because of the many nesting areas.
The clean-up operation could take a lot of time and the ships will be forced to change their route. This oil spill incident will hurt the economy badly and will cost millions of dollars, not considering the damage to the environment.
Investigation is under way to determine what caused the collision.
The Liberian-flagged bulk carrier Summer Wind has IMO number 9114139, built in 1995, operated by Greek company, size 185 x 31 meters (585-foot). Merchant vessels are often sailing under foreign flag due to "more operating flexibility and lower operating costs", the ability to transfer vessels between registries at will, no income taxes, no staffing requirements, no limits on where vessels can be built or repaired, and no U.S. government safety inspections.
Many U.S. ship owners choose different flags because the cost of operating a vessel registered in the United States is 2.7 times more expensive than foreign-flag registration.