An equipment failure led to a Sept. 6, 2016 incident in the Houston Ship Channel that left two marine pilots with burn injuries and discharged 88,000 gallons of low-sulfur marine gas oil – which subsequently caught on fire.

That’s the finding of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The agency’s investigation into the incident found that a momentary failure of a ship’s governor actuator system caused the tank vessel Aframax River to violently strike two mooring “dolphins” - man-made marine structures extending above the water level.

The allision tore a 30-foot-long gash in the hull of the ship. The fire ignited by the oil spill burned for approximately 45 minutes.

The accident forced the closure of a portion of the channel for approximately 14 hours and caused an estimated $1.5 million in property damage. Two pilots aboard the vessel suffered minor burns in the fire.

The NTSB’s Marine accident brief 18-06 is available online at