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Ship owners petition to limit liability in oil spill cases - The Galveston County Daily News : News

October 1, 2014

Ship owners petition to limit liability in oil spill cases

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 12:10 am

TEXAS CITY — The owners of a ship involved in a collision that spilled heavy fuel oil into Galveston Bay seeks to stop claims against the firm.

Attorneys for Sea Galaxy Marine, owners of the cargo vessel Summer Wind, filed a petition to limit its liability in the March 22 collision with a barge that spilled more than 168,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. The firm also seeks to make a court in Houston the primary court of jurisdiction in the case.

The court filing affectively stops all claims against the ship’s owner. Two weeks ago, a federal judge ordered the “arrest” or seizure of the ship at the request of attorneys representing several fishermen and bait shops.

The ship was freed after the ship’s operator, Cleopatra Shipping, filed a $9.3 million bond, said attorney Sean O’Rourke, who filed the request for arrest with the court.

O’Rourke said he was expecting the limitation of liability request by the ship’s owner.

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who also represents several fishermen and others in the fishing industry, said his firm responded by filing with the courts that all claims be moved back to the federal court in Galveston, “where they belong,” he said.

The filing for limitation last week is the latest in what will be a series of legal maneuvers by parties involved as investigators try to sort out who is responsible for the collision and the cleanup costs.

Kirby Inland Marine owned the tugboat that was towing the barge that spilled the oil. As such, that company is considered the “responsible party,” although it is not determined who was at fault in the collision.

On a foggy March 22 morning, the Summer Wind and the barge pushed by the tugboat Miss Susan collided at the Texas City Y.

That section of waterway near the tip of the Texas City Dike is where the Texas City and Houston ship channels and the Intracoastal Waterway converge.

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