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Boxship holed in collision with tanker in Houston Ship Channel

Jun 1, 2015 12:08 PM

A containership ended up with a 100-square-foot hole in its hull after a collision with a chemical tanker in the Houston Ship Channel.

The 892-foot boxship Monte Alegre and the 445-foot Chembulk Houston were both headed up-channel when they collided March 5 south of Eagle Point near San Leon. The channel was closed for less than an hour as a result of the accident. 

The 5,550-TEU containership, owned by Germany’s Hamburg Sud, appears to have been on a course similar to BLT’s Chembulk Houston, according to vessel position data from PortVision. 

Investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Coast Guard are assessing the cause of the collision. Both ships were damaged in the incident, which occurred at about 1337. The waterway was reopened before 1500.

“The Monte Alegre was under pilotage and was underway according to the lineup of the port,” Hamburg Sud spokeswoman Heidi Jensen in Germany said. “External damage to the Monte Alegre was on the port-side hull plating, from frame 31 to 99, with dents and holes. The biggest hole was 3 meters by 3 meters. In addition, there was internal damage to port-side passageways.”

According to automatic identification system (AIS) data from PortVision, at 1335 Monte Alegre was sailing 2.48 miles northwest of lower Galveston Bay at Light Buoy No. 31 on a course of 323 degrees northwest and at a speed of 9 knots. At the same time, Chembulk Houston was 2.45 miles northwest of the lower bay at Light Buoy No. 31, traveling 339 degrees north at a speed of 9.1 knots. 

The collision occurred near Light Buoy No. 42 with a Houston Pilot on board each ship, Coast Guard spokesman Dustin Williams said. The afternoon was cool and windy.Williams said weather doesn’t appear to have been a factor. He didn’t say what factors were suspected.

Houston Pilots guide ships up the busy, 50-mile-long channel. The waterway had just been reopened to traffic after being mostly shut to pilot boardings during previous foggy days. 

On March 5, the channel was shut from Light Buoy No. 26 to 42 for about 45 minutes after the incident. “It was closed only as a precautionary measure, and the ships were moved within about an hour of the collision,” Williams said. The two vessels headed into port for inspection. No injuries and no pollution resulted.

Jack Noonan, chief executive of BLT Chembulk in Connecticut, declined to discuss the casualty’s specifics. He said parent company BLT in Indonesia was being restructured.

“The incident’s findings haven’t been finalized, and vessel repairs have yet to be completed,” Noonan said in April. “No injury, no loss of life, no pollution and no breach of cargo or bunker tank integrity occurred.” 

Houston Pilots spokesman Henry de La Garza confirmed that one of its men was aboard each vessel. He wouldn’t discuss any communications between the two pilots. 

The German-flagged, 69,132- gross-ton Monte Alegre was built in 2008. The Singapore-flagged, 9,230-gross-ton Chembulk Houston was constructed in 2003.

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