Vessels that discharge oil into waterways may have to pay fines and damages. Texas company, Kirby Inland Marine LP, agreed to a $15.3 million settlement to cover damages caused by a collision that caused an oil spill.
What happened and why did the Texas company have to pay?
Oil spill caused by collision
In March of 2014, a Kirby towboat called Miss Susan was attempting to move two oil barges through the Houston Ship Channel. The towboat pushed the barges into the path of a deep-draft bulk cargo ship called M/V Summer Wind that was traveling through the Channel. The suit against Kirby claimed that Miss Susan negligently caused a collision with the M/V Summer Wind that caused 4,000 barrels of oil to spill into the Houston Ship Channel.
Damages caused by the oil spill
The oil from the spill traveled down the Houston Ship Channel, through Galveston Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico causing pollution in the water and along a large section of the Texas coast. This seriously damaged the Texas coast, including a wildlife refuge. It also caused the Houston Ship Channel to close, disrupted recreational use of the Texas coast and necessitated extensive cleanup efforts.
In addition to the $15 million settlement, the government settled with Kirby for $4.9 million in civil penalties and injunctive relief intended to ensure the company is not responsible for future spills. Government officials are on record as stating that they hope the case demonstrates the seriousness of oil transporters’ duty to prevent spills by operating safely.