WGMA Houston Ship Channel


PCT Call Update


Saturday, May 4, 2024


Flood/High Water Situation


The US Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston’s Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) held a Port Coordination Team (PCT) conference call this morning at 0900 hours to look at the situation on the Houston Ship Channel at the intersection with flooding and high currents on the lower San Jacinto River. While this flood/high water event is mainly effecting Brown Water traffic, the flooding has now reached a point where ship traffic can and will be impacted. Your WGMA Maritime Affairs team participated on the call and has the following report for our membership:


National Weather Service:

·     San Jacinto River is now anticipated to crest this evening at Sheldon 20.1 feet

·     Additional possible rainfall tonight into Sunday afternoon/evening

·     This means another 48 hours during which we can expect additional rainfall

·     The river stage is expected to rise more

·     Earliest time the River could be back below 10 feet flood stage is Tuesday

·     Higher than normal currents well into next week on the ICWW from Freeport to the Sabine River


Vessel Traffic Service Director:

·     Current conditions on the San Jacinto River; flood stage greater than 19 feet & 5 mph currents

·     Tow vessel Cindy C, a small pusher boat, sank overnight, currently pinned at Channel Shipyard against and under a barge

·     San Jacinto River is closed to all traffic and remains closed until further notice

·     Old River is also blocked temporarily while one of the fleets works on repositioning barges

·     There is a buoy line adrift that was marking the EPA Superfund site above the I-10 Bridge; it needs to be located so that no boats get tangled in those lines

·     There is also a green flashing buoy on the River that is off-station


Captain of the Port’s comments:

·     Captain Donohue wanted to emphasize that this flood event is already well into the top 10 flooding events in history; they are recording currents of 5 knots in the mouth of the San Jacinto River

·     All vessels must check in for even the slightest move; no exceptions

·     The Cindy C did not check in last night and was only repositioning at the shipyard and they capsized

·     Luckily no one died

·     Next 24 hours all users must be extra vigilant

·     Working on a plan to reopen as soon as conditions improve

·     It is likely USCG will shut down the Houston Ship Channel in this area later today for ALL TRAFFIC, due to safety concerns


Houston Pilots:

·     Pilots were going to restrict traffic through the area last night, but decided to try it with a tractor tug

·     It was a very tricky situation and therefore they’ve put several restrictions into place

·     No vessel over 35’ may pass the San Jacinto River

·     No vessels movements into ExxonMobil 5 & 6, and nothing into BOSCO

·     Likely this will also restrict empty Suezmax passing the San Jacinto River; this determination has yet to be made

·     Please see above comment from COTP


Agents are reminded to maintain close dialogue with area pilot dispatch offices. Agents are also reminded to keep the eNOA/D’s updated for their vessels, and to keep the pilots closely advised about when their ships are ready to transit, whether sailing, shifting or docking.


As these conditions will persist in the area, there will be another PCT conference call held tomorrow, Sunday May 5th, at 0900 hours. Your WGMA Maritime Affairs team will participate on tomorrow’s call and report to our membership.