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Barge Accident: $1 Billion Loss

Tow boat Safety Quest, pushing three barges of scrap metal, hit the high-line electrical tower which carries lines across the Houston Ship Channel, located at the narrowest point of the shipping artery. The accident occurred at around 6 a.m. Sunday morning, October, 3rd, in Baytown, Texas shutting down the Houston Ship Channel. The city of Baytown is located about 30 miles east of Houston, TX.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm says the channel will be closed until at least Tuesday night. So far, nearly 30 vessels are waiting to cross. Center Point Energy owns the electrical lines which were cut due to the barge accident.

“The power lines are suspended above the water via a huge tower,” said Brahm. “Basically this barge ran into the base of it and shifted the whole tower right on top of (one) of the barges.”

“Maybe if it was wider we could have got boats around it, but it’s not, so it’s a logistical problem. It’s a bad place for it to happen,” Brahm said.

“We don’t want any traffic coming in there because what if the barge does shift? That would cause the tower to collapse and we don’t want anyone getting hurt,” said Brahm.The Houston Ship Channel shut down may cause nearly $1 billion in economic loss. “The Houston Ship Channel brings in about $300 million a day of goods, products, services, (and) people working so it’s a big concern for us. But our number one concern is safety so we want to get it done safe and we want to get it down as fast as we can,” Brahm said.

The 25-mile waterway is lined by the largest complex of petrochemical plants. The Port of Houston ranks first in the nation in foreign waterborne tonnage and imports and second in U.S. export tonnage and total tonnage.

It generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity on a daily basis, Brahm said.

“Every day it’s shut down it’s a massive loss for the surrounding area, so you never want to shut it down,” he said.

The crew of the tow boat were moved to another vessel.  No injuries were reported at the time of the incident.