Barge Hits Bridge Linking Galveston To Pelican Island, Causing Partial Collapse & Oil Spill

Barge
Image Credits: US Coast Guard

A 321-foot barge, MMLP 321, struck and damaged the critical Pelican Island Causeway bridge in Galveston, Texas.

The incident on Wednesday, May 16, 2024, closed the only route connecting the two locations, but fortunately, no injuries were reported.

The barge MMLP 321 collided with the bridge pillar around 9:48 a.m. local time.

The incident also resulted in an oil spill into neighbouring waters, prompting the closure of the bridge to allow cleanup operations.

According to the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, Maj. Ray Nolen, despite the intensity of the collision, one individual on the barge slipped into the water but was quickly rescued without any injuries.

Galveston, a prominent worldwide economic hub, primarily depends on its maritime routes.

However, analysts have emphasised that because the incident occurred in a less-trafficked river, it is unlikely to cause severe economic problems.

Pelican Island, located near Galveston’s bustling beaches, is home to industrial operations and Texas A&M University at Galveston.

According to reports, the incident occurred when a tugboat operator lost control of the barges due to adverse currents and high tides in the area, as David Flores, bridge superintendent with the Galveston County Navigation District, reported.


Video Credits: Global News/YouTube

The barge involved in the collision, owned by Martin Petroleum, was carrying bunker fuel for ships and had a capacity of around 30,000 gallons.

While the amount of oil leaked into the bay is unknown, officials have closed about 6.5 miles of the waterway as a precaution.

The incident occurred just weeks after a similar maritime accident in Baltimore, demonstrating the significance of strong safety measures in bridge operations, as National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy stated.

The Texas Department of Transportation intends to replace the damaged Pelican Island Causeway Bridge, which the Federal Highway Administration rated “Poor” in 2025.

The project was estimated to cost approximately $194 million, citing the bridge’s reaching its lifespan and needing to be replaced.

The officials have spent over $12 million on the bridge for maintenance and repairs over the past decade.

While the bridge remains closed for investigation, emergency responders, including the Texas Department of Transportation, the US Coast Guard, and the local authorities, are working together to manage the effects of the incident while preventing any environmental damage.

As the investigation into the tragedy continues, residents and government officials remain cautious.

Such incidents highlight the importance of timely safety assessments and infrastructure maintenance to avoid future tragedies and ensure the safety and well-being of communities dependent on critical transportation routes.

Reference: AP, CBS News

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