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Barge Traffic on the River
Posted on Nov 3rd, 2014

                   Photo Courtesy: Tom Folger, www.folgerstudios.com
On Sunday, Nov. 2, two pushboats, the Capt Leroy, 800 hp. 22’ x56’, owned by Hard’s Marine Service, Hull, TX and the Jenny W., 800 hp 22’ x 60’, built 1978, owned by S & W Marine, Lockport, LA, pushed a barge upriver loaded with equipment for the Chevron Phillips Chemical expansion at its Sweeny complex in Old Ocean. The equipment will be offloaded at a new ramp on private property approx. 1/4 mile below the FM 522 bridge, and approx. one mile above the San Bernard Terminal. Last trip was on Sat Nov 8th.
  • Watch for barge traffic on the river Tuesday, Nov 4 thru Saturday, Nov 8. Towboats will be pushing barges carrying large equipment for the Chevron Phillips Chemical expansion upriver at night and returning downriver during the daytime. Recreational boaters need to exercise extreme caution when operating near commercial traffic.
Phillips 66 San Bernard River Guidelines
Phillips 66 and Kirby Inland Marine (operators of the barges carrying products to and from the Phillips San Bernard Terminal) voluntarily follow guidelines that restrict their barge operations in an attempt to improve safety on the river. The seven page Guidelines were developed and written about 14 years ago by Kirby Marine and Phillips, with input from residents at the time. Each employee is trained on the Guidelines. Most river residents today are either unaware of this agreement or do not know its specific provisions. Here are a few of the details from the Phillips 66 San Bernard River Guidelines:
  • From the first weekend in May through Labor Day, no transits up or down river begin between 4 pm and 9 pm on Fridays, or between 9 am and 9 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, except in cases of unforeseen weather conditions, mechanical difficulties or some similar cause.
  • Speed is restricted near habitations.
  • Noise is restricted near habitations.
  • The engine is idled on the side of the vessel closest to a swimmer in the water.
  • Night operations are not restricted.
A recent question to the FOR web site regarding the speed and timing of a barge transit prompted some discussion with Phillips 66 and they have reviewed their barge movement records for this past summer. They found only one instance where a barge was operating during the curfew period. It's difficult to monitor speed other than to log overall transit time, so they depend on residents to call if unsafe operations are observed. Phillips has in the past worked with Kirby to exclude certain tugs and/or captains from the river, based on substantiated complaints and incidents.
The recent discussion with Phillips 66 brought to light some possible shortcomings in the current agreement. For instance, a transit beginning just prior to the start of a curfew period might continue for 4 hours or more into the period.  (A barge leaving at 8 am would arrive between noon and 2 pm.)  The Independence Day holiday, which may not fall on a weekend, isn't mentioned, nor are the nights of the two boat parades. Large numbers of swimmers and skiers continue to be present on weekends well beyond Labor Day.
Phillips has offered to sit down with representatives from FOR to explain the current agreement, and listen to any constructive suggestions for avoiding incidents on the river.  
If you have QUESTIONS, CONCERNS, or IMPROVEMENT IDEAS on this topic, please click on the Comment link located directly under the article’s title "Pushboats on the River". It will lead you to the Add Comment link, at the lower right of the article. Note: You have to be registered on the website to “log in”. Registration is located just below the FOR logo on the left menu.
FOR San Bernard will collect these comments through November 11, and then schedule a meeting with Phillips, the tug operators and representatives from Friends of the River San Bernard.
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