Collision Results in Chemical Spill in the Houston Ship Channel

Photo of Brian Humphrey

On March 9, the medium range tanker Carla Maersk collided with the supramax bulk carrier Conti Peridot in the Houston Shipping Channel off Morgan's Point. While news sources report no injuries, the collision ruptured Carla Maersk's tanks, spilling thousands of barrels of the flammable chemical MTBE. The spill caused the shutdown of an 8-mile portion of the 50-mile waterway for nearly two days, and resulted in a "shelter-in-place" order for residents of Morgan's Point.

Carla Maersk, a Danish-flagged 44,999 deadweight ton (dwt) tanker owned by Maersk Tankers, was carrying 216,000 barrels of methyl tert-butyl ether, or MTBE. MTBE is a petrochemical primarily used as an anti-knocking additive to unleaded gasoline. In addition to being highly flammable, MTBE can give water a highly unpleasant taste and odor even in low concentrations, leading to concerns over MTBE as a groundwater contaminant. In fact, MTBE is no longer used in US markets due to state regulations and due to federal subsidies for ethanol as an alternative. Consequently, while the US is still one of the top five producers of MTBE, virtually all of it is exported, primarily to refiners in Mexico and Venezuela.

It has yet to be determined what caused the collision between Carla Maersk and Conti Peridot, a Liberian-flagged, 57,000 dwt bulker owned by CONTI Group which was carrying steel from South Korea and China. However, dense fog was reported in the area. The NTSB is investigating, but the investigation is expected to take over a year.

It is unknown how much MTBE was spilled as a result of the collision, but estimates of over 2,500 barrels have been reported, and a Coast Guard helicopter detected a narrow, 2-mile long sheen emanating from the tanker. Fortunately, the leak was stopped after 90 minutes. However, the long-term effects of this spill are as yet unclear.

If you or someone you know has been injured or suffered property damage as a result of a maritime collision or spill, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-222-7211 or toll free at 1-800-870-9584.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Awards & Recognition

  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

Get Your Free Case Review 713.587.9668

Let Us Help You Today! Request a Free Consultation

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

  • $80 Million Personal Injury Large Plant Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 270 plaintiffs', taking a lead role in the plaintiffs' steering committee, who suffered injuries in a large plant explosion resulting in a settlement of nearly $80 million.

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Plant Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 45 personal injury victims in a plant fire and explosion, serving on the plaintiffs' steering committee, concluding with a settlement of more than $50 million.

  • $22+ Million Personal Injury Work Site Accident

    The firm prevailed in a personal injury trial for a worksite injury client with the jury returning a verdict and resulting in a judgment of over $22 million for the firm's client.

  • $12 Million Auto Accident 18-Wheeler Collision

    The firm successfully achieved a $12 million settlement for the family of a man who died in an 18 wheeler collision.

  • $30 Million Personal Injury Burn Victims

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $30 million.

Our Record Of Success.

When you are hurt and you choose a law firm to represent you in court or at the negotiation table, you need to carefully consider the firm's record.

More Success Stories