February 17, 2012 / 4:38 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 3-Barge collision temporarily closes Mississippi River

* No injuries, but oil spilled, estimated less than 10,000 gallons
    * Barge pushed onto riverbank, spill halted, cleanup underway
    * One-way vessel traffic resumes 10 hours after the accident
    * Impact on oil, agribusiness, commodities appears limited


    By Bruce Nichols	
    HOUSTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - A barge collision and oil spill on Friday
temporarily closed the Mississippi River near New Orleans, but the impact on
river shipping was limited and the spill was estimated at less than 10,000
gallons, the U.S. Coast Guard said.	
    There were no injuries, but the river was closed from Mile 135 to Mile 140,
about 50 miles upriver from New Orleans, between 2 a.m. CST (800 GMT) and 11
a.m. CST (1700 GMT), when one-way traffic resumed.	
    The damaged tank barge, which had a 5-by-10 foot gash at the waterline, was
carrying 3,535 barrels of Louisiana sweet crude, but the spill was estimated at
less than 10,000 gallons (238 barrels), the Coast Guard said.	
    The barge was pushed up on the river bank, the spill halted and cleanup
begun, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said.	
    The tugboat pushing the damaged barge deployed 100 feet of boom and 30,000
feet more of the floating oil barrier was available to contain the spill, the
spokeswoman said.	
    The Coast Guard closed the river after the collision at Mile 139 involving
the towboats Clarence W. Settoon, which was pushing oil barges downriver, and
the Alydar, which was pushing a crane barge up river.	
    One-way downstream-bound traffic resumed at 11 a.m. and was to run until 6
p.m., at which time upstream traffic would run until 6 a.m. Saturday, the Coast
Guard said. The two directions were to alternate pending cleanup.	
    The impact of the river traffic shutdown appeared limited late Friday, a
barge broker said.	
    Twelve ships had been delayed. But by late afternoon, all four
downstream-bound were cleared, while eight were waiting to move upstream, the
Coast Guard said.	
    "It depends on how long the closure is. It's a big impact when you shut the
river down," said Edward Nowell, director of operations for the Port of South
Louisiana, a 54-mile stretch of facilities bracketing the collision site.	
    Downriver from the accident, Port of New Orleans spokesman Chris Bonura said
the closure was not hindering operations. "It's not affecting traffic in our
jurisdiction at all," Bonura said.	
    Crude oil and petroleum products move in both directions on the river. There
are eight refineries with 2.2 million barrels per day of capacity in the New
Orleans area, 12.4 percent of the U.S. total.	
    Other commodities also move through the area, which has two major port
complexes and is lined with facilities that handle more than half of U.S.
agricultural exports, which totaled $136 billion last year.	
    The accident was downriver from refineries operated by Marathon Petroleum,
Exxon Mobil and Motiva, a joint venture of Shell Oil 
and Saudi Aramco. It was upriver from refineries operated by Valero,
Conoco Phillips and Chalmette, a joint venture between Exxon and Saudi
Aramco.	
    Valero and Motiva declined comment. Exxon Mobil said operations at Baton
Rouge and Chalmette had not been affected.	
    The river closure was near major grain terminals operated by Cargill
 and ADM. A Cargill spokesman could not be reached for comment.
An ADM spokeswoman said closure always affects barge movement to some degree.	
    "It's too early to assess the potential impact of today's closure on ADM's
transportation operations," the ADM spokeswoman emailed.
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