A crude oil spill in a southeast Texas port that happened when a tanker and towing vessel collided Saturday was not expected to spread beyond a two-mile area, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
It was unclear exactly how much oil spilled into the water, but the Coast Guard said it could have been as much as 450,000 gallons.
No one was injured when the 800-foot tanker carrying oil collided with a towing vessel pushing two barges, but the Port of Port Arthur was closed and some nearby residents were evacuated for about seven hours. The Coast Guard said the crash left a 15-by-8-foot hole in the tanker and damaged one of its oil tanks, resulting in the spill.
According to Petty Officer Richard Brahm, the ship’s crew members said they pumped 69,000 barrels from the damaged tank that carried 80,000 barrels, so they have 11,000 barrels — about 450,000 gallons — that they can’t account for.
Several local officials said only 1,000 barrels, or about 42,000 gallons, of oil had been spilled into the water.
Initial reports indicated the environmental impact had been minimal. The cause of collision was still under investigation.
Brahm acknowledged that it didn’t look like hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude was in the water. He said some might still be in the damaged tank.
Even if 450,000 gallons were released, the spill would still be much smaller than the 11 million gallons spilled in Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989.
Coast Guard Capt. J.J. Plunkett said late Saturday that officials believed the oil spill was ’’pretty much contained’’ in a 2-mile stretch of the Sabine Neches Waterway, where the spill took place and that runs along the city of Port Arthur, about 90 miles east of Houston.
During the collision, the towing vessel also hit another tanker that was tied to a pier. Brahm said that tanker sustained some damage, but had no leaks.
The damaged tanker, the Eagle Atome, is owned by AET Tankers, a Malaysian company with offices in Houston. AET said in a statement that it was working with authorities to determine how much crude had spilled.
One of the worst shipping accidents in the area was the June 1990 spill from the Norwegian tanker Mega Borg. It leaked 4.3 million gallons of crude oil about 60 miles off Galveston.