US Coast Responds to Sunken Vessel in Houston Ship Channel

The Coast Guard, in conjunction with a Houston Police Department Dive Team and the Texas General Land Office, continue to respond to a sunken tug boat in the Houston Ship Channel, Thursday.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston received a call at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, stating the J.R. Nichols, a 56-foot tug boat, had sank in the Houston Ship Channel near the Sims Bayou turning basin with five people onboard.

A vessel from the Lyondell facility rescued four of the five people onboard the tug boat. A Coast Guard 25-foot Response Boat-Small from Station Houston remains on scene, along with a dive team from the Houston Police Department, to search for the remaining person. In addition, an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Houston commenced a first light search at 7 a.m. Thursday.

A salvage plan for the J.R. Nichols has been submitted to the command staff at Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston.

The Captain of the Port has closed the Houston Ship Channel from the Vopak facility to Sims Bayou in support of the search and rescue effort.

The cause of the vessel's sinking is under investigation.

Editor's Note: Citing Petty Officer Prentice Danner, a spokesman for the US Coast Guard, Dow Jones Newswires reported that it was unclear how long the search operation would last but that currently there are no reports of traffic backup. Part of the Port of Houston, the Houston Ship Channel is one of the busiest transportation hubs in the U.S. and serves numerous terminals and refineries lining its waterway.