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Tanker collides with oil barges

GALVESTON, Texas -- A pair of oil barges collided with a 601-foot tanker in the busy Houston Ship Channel Saturday, partially sinking one of the barges and causing both to leak, Coast Guard officials said.

Petty Officer Kevin Johnson said it was not known how much oil had spilled into the busy channel linking Houston with the Gulf of Mexico or when the waterway, closed after the accident, would be reopened.

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'Three barges carrying fuel oil were being pushed by a tug toward Houston when the first two barges collided with the outward-bound Liberian-flagged tanker 'Shinoussa,'' Johnson said.

'The leading barge, carrying 18,000 barrels of No. 2 fuel oil, partially sank and is leaking. The second barge, containing 24,000 barrels of fuel oil, remained attached to the tug, but it is also leaking,' he said.

The tug and barges are owned by Apex RE&T Inc. of St. Louis, which hired a private company that was working Saturday night to clean up the spill, Johnson said.

Neither the third barge nor the tug was damaged in the accident around 3 p.m. near Redfish Island, about 20 miles north of Galveston, Johnson said.

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The 601-foot tanker continued to Port Bolivar, where it dropped anchor. Johnson said the ship was not leaking but it was damaged, although he was not sure how badly.

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