The information in this report is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation. At 0906 central daylight time (CDT) on Saturday, October 29, 2011, the 799-foot Greek-flag chemical tanker Elka Apollon, outbound in the Houston ship channel, collided with the 777-foot inbound Panamanian-flag container vessel MSC Nederland at a point in the channel referred to as Five Mile, which is close to the channel's intersection with the Bayport ship channel. Prior to the collision, the pilots agreed via VHF radio to a port-to-port passing. As the Elka Apollon began its maneuver to meet the MSC Nederland, the towboat Mr. Earl pushing a fuel barge was exiting the Bayport ship channel off the tanker's starboard side. According to the pilot on the Elka Apollon, he issued commands to avoid the towboat and barge with left rudder orders and in so doing set the tanker on a heading across and to the left in the channel. The pilot on the tanker tried to regain control of the vessel with a hard starboard rudder order in an effort to avoid the inbound MSC Nederland. The pilot on the MSC Nederland saw the approaching tanker and ordered emergency full ahead and hard to port to try to swing his vessel away from the tanker's bow. In spite of the efforts of both pilots, the two vessels collided.