Update: Carla Maersk’s Salvage Operation Underway

Salvage operation of significantly damaged chemical tanker Carla Maersk that collided with bulker Conti Peridot began on Wednesday, Central Texas Coastal Area Committee (CTCAC) informed.

Two of the tanker’s port cargo tanks were ruptured in the clash resulting in a spill of an unknown quantity of Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE).

As informed by CTCAC, the salvage plans include utilizing high-density foam to suppress any flammable vapor seeping from the punctured tanks.

“Once the foam is in place, responders will monitor the air for any flammable vapors. If deemed safe, responders will commence the removal of liquid cargo. Once the liquid cargo has been removed and the structural integrity of the vessel has been deemed safe for movement, the Carla Maersk will be moved from the Houston Ship Channel to a safe berthing area,” the Committee said on Wednesday in an update.

The Conti Peridot was safely moved with the assistance of two tugboats, to City Dock 21, Tuesday afternoon, CTCAC said.

Houston Ship Channel is likely to open within next 12 hours within the safety zone introduced after the collision, as predicted by the West Gulf Maritime Association (WGMA).

A section of the channel, from light 86 to the Fred Hartman Bridge has been closed since the collision.

The closure of the channel’s section has impacted operations of Exxon Mobil Corp’s refinery in Baytown, Texas amid tanker delays, Bloomberg reports.

Since Wednesday afternoon, 83 vessels were queuing at the ship channel, 48 inbound and 35 outbound, the US Coast Guard said.

According to responders conducting air and water tests, there are no public health or environmental concerns at the time.

To date, more than 500 air and water tests have been conducted, equaling approximately 50-70 tests per hour.

MTBE evaporates very quickly from surface water, the US Environmental Protection Agency said citing results of various studies. However,  Texas Department of State Health Services advised that fisherman exercise common sense by avoiding fish and shellfish containing chemical odor.

The cause of the collision remains under investigation.

World Maritime News Staff; Image: USCG