Two crewmen remained missing Monday as cleanup continued from an Oct. 20 barge fire off Port Aransas, Texas.

The Coast Guard suspended the search Saturday night, as a flotilla of response vessels around the stricken barge B. No. 255 worked to contain its cargo of crude oil. The barge was inbound to Corpus Christi with its pusher tug, the 127’x37’x20’, 6,140-hp Buster Bouchard, when an explosion and fire erupted on the forward part of the barge around 4:30 a.m. Friday. The tug and barge are owned by Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc., Melville, N.Y.

Authorities did not release names of the missing crewmen. Corpus Christi television station KRIS identified one as Zach Jackson, 28, a tankerman from Salt Lake City, Utah.

The fire burned out the forward part of the barge B. No. 255. Coast Guard photo.

The fire burned out the forward part of the barge B. No. 255. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard, local responders and port services including the 91.3’x40’x17.4’ firefighting tug Signet Constellation brought the fire under control, revealing a burned-out forward deck on the barge. A joint command made up of the Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office, and representatives of Bouchard organized the spill response.

Lightering operations removed some 2,500 bbls. of oil-water mix, before being temporarily suspended due to weather Sunday, Coast Guard officials said. Containment booms were set around the barge. While sheening was seen there, overflight surveillance found no oil in the Port Aransas entrance and jetty channels, which were reopened to shipping.

Deflection and protection boom remained in place inside the channel as a precaution, with a 1,000-yd. safety zone around the barge. Skimming vessels on the scene included the 210’x44’ Southern Responder, operated by the non-profit Marine Spill Response Corp.

Some discharged oil landed on the shoreline at Mustang Island and North Padre Island; three beach cleanup crews went to work and three arrived Monday for a total of 120 personnel. Air monitoring teams were deployed onshore and on the water to ensure safe air quality for responders and the public, and two wildlife response teams were working around Port Aransas and the Padre Island National Seashore.

On Monday night the Coast Guard reported there had been no further discharge of oil from the barge, and overflights observed no oil remaining on the water. Responders were applying high expansion foam into the barge cargo tanks to suppress vapors, as the barge remained anchored with two response vessels standing by.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.