"Texas chicken” is a procedure that occurs when two shipping vessels face each other on a collision course—a frequent occurrence in the Houston Ship Channel. The vessels must quickly turn (like in the game of “chicken") to avoid an accident.
The term “Texas chicken” has been cited in print since at least 1980.
Wikipedia: Chicken (Game)
The game of chicken, also known as the hawk-dove game or snowdrift game, is an influential model of conflict for two players in game theory. The principle of the game is that while each player prefers not to yield to the other, the worst possible outcome occurs when both players do not yield.
The name “chicken” has its origins in a game in which two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a “chicken,” meaning a coward; this terminology is most prevalent in political science and economics.
Proceedings - United States Naval Institute
They include things such as tugboats scurrying about and churning up the water, a pilot in touch with the VTS by voice radio from his position on a bridge wing high above the water,a barge plying the channel, heading past burning of waste gases at an oil refinery. and a game of “Texas chicken” in which ships hold on a collision course, then turn aside quickly and careen off the underwater banks of the channel.
27 October 1982, Galveston (TX) Daily News, “Coast Guard commander speaks: Advisory panel gets down to business” by Max Rizley Jr., pg. 4-A, col. 3:
Stewart said he is disturbed by “this game of Texas chicken” when large vessels meet head-to-head, and he wondered if the safe limit for traffic size and density in the Houston Ship Channel had been reached or even exceeded.
Google News Archive
25 June 1987, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “Coast Guard Battles Oil Spills in R.I., Delaware and Texas,” pg. 13A, col. 5:
“It’s a narrow sip channel and the larger ships that go up and down it have to play a game called Texas chicken,” said Chief Petty Officer Mark Kennedy, a spokesman for the Coast Guard in Texas.
The other Texas
Ride along, little tanker
Jul 31st 1997 | LITTLE CHOCOLATE BAYOU, TEXAS
Houston, the eighth largest port in the world ($5.5 billion in revenues in 1996), is an even tougher proposition. The Houston Pilots’ 63 commissioned members form perhaps the only cohesive force in the sprawling port. Once a ship starts out into the crowded Houston shipping channel, it has to keep going. This sometimes requires a dramatic procedure called the “Texas chicken”. Two large ships, steaming head-on at each other, break right at a given moment and trust their bow waves to keep them apart. Pilots sniff at laymen’s terror. “Simple hydraulic forces,” they explain.
Abilene (TX) Reporter-News
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Pilots See Long Life For Texas Chicken
By ERWIN SEBA
HOUSTON (AP) - Texas Chicken isn’t for the faint of heart.
But for vessels headed in opposite directions on the Houston Ship Channel, it’s the only way to pass. The trick involves water pressure. The scary part is that ships have to head right at each other for it to work.
In Texas Chicken, 100-foot-wide ships as long as three football fields head straight at each other down the center of the 400-foot-wide channel. At a distance of about a half-mile, the pilots signal each other as to which side they plan to pass on.
The water displaced by the bows of the ships moves them away from each other and toward the sides of the 40-foot-deep(sic) channel, then the suction of the displaced water flowing in behind the ships naturally pulls them back to the center.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2008
Via gcaptain this time lapse photo of a transit of the Houston Ship Channel is very interesting. - I think I watched it 3 or 4 times. You can see from the video that there is not much room for error.
I didn’t see an encounter on the video between two big ship but when they meet it’s called “Texas Chicken” UPDATE: Part two here has video of the Texas Chicken ....... at 500 kts. And scroll down for photos.
Houston (TX) Chronicle
Waterway where oil spilled a challenge for pilots
Inching along in the channel
Navigating the Sabine-Neches Waterway, where two vessels recently collided, can be a game of Texas Chicken for crews
BEAUMONT ENTERPRISE | January 30, 2010
It’s called Texas Chicken. The delicate pas de deux occurs when oncoming ships meet in the narrow channel along one of the nation’s busiest commercial waterways
But this is no game, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
In this form of Texas Chicken, the two vessels — hundreds of feet long and almost 100 feet wide — close on each other at a combined speed ofjust under 20 mph. There are no brakes, and there’s nowhere to go in the Sabine-Neches Waterway, which is just 400 feet wide.
“You have to point at the other ship,” said Capt. Charles Tweedel, president of the Sabine Pilots Association. “At the last moment, you break away. Water pressure keeps you apart.”
INSIGHT: Game of ‘Texas chicken’ being played on US waterways
16 February 2010 18:36
By Lane Kelly
HOUSTON (ICIS news)—What happens when an 870-foot oil tanker heads straight into a tugboat pushing two barges full of benzene?
The question concerns a maritime manoeuvre called “Texas chicken”, which doesn’t necessarily require an oil tanker or two barges full of benzene or any other chemicals, or any barges, for that matter.
All it takes is two ships passing each other on a stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway near Port Arthur, Texas. Vessels that are sometimes as long as a football field and sometimes half as wide close in on each other at a combined speed of just under 20 mph.
They head directly into each other, and then at the last minute, break away - the last minute, for a ship pilot, being when the other vessel is within half a mile. Water pressure keeps them apart.
Pilots Do Texas Chicken Amid Houston Channel Oil Traffic
By Isaac Arnsdorf and Dan Murtaugh Feb 24, 2014 3:59 PM ET
It takes an expert pilot to pull off the Texas Chicken.
The maneuver, in which crossing ships set up for a head-on collision and use each other’s wave pressure to swerve safely past, is the only way to handle two-way traffic in the Houston Ship Channel, which connects downtown with the Galveston Bay and Gulf of Mexico. The narrow waterway is used by some 400 vessels every day, from barges to tankers almost as long as the tallest skyscraper on the horizon.
Houston (TX) Chronicle
Port of Houston incidents rarely investigated formally
Few pilots in accidents, like crash that led to March oil spill, are disciplined
By Kiah Collier and Lise Olsen
June 28, 2014 | Updated: June 29, 2014 2:04am
Among mariners, Houston Pilots are known for their uncanny ability to navigate an exceedingly complex channel that requires an extremely tight passing maneuver - nicknamed “the Texas chicken” - where ships come at each other head on before turning away just in the nick of time.
Pilots collectively make about 18,000 trips in and out of the Ship Channel each year, while port officials reviewed an average of only about eight accidents annually, according to information provided by the pilots and the port authority.