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Houston Ship Channel partially open to outbound traffic

   date:2019-05-14     Author:S&P Global Platts    Browse:0    
Core tips:The Houston Ship Channel was partially open to outbound traffic Sunday, two days after a collision between a tanker and
The Houston Ship Channel was partially open to outbound traffic Sunday, two days after a collision between a tanker and a tug shut the waterway, and the backlog of outbound vessels in wait has been reduced, a spokesman for the incident's Unified Command said.

As of Sunday afternoon, there were 48 vessels queued up to go inbound and another 32 outbound, Greg Beuerman told S&P Global Platts. The outbound number is down from 47 earlier in the day.
A limited movement of traffic through the waterway was allowed, as tugs began to accompany vessels outbound, Beuerman said.

"There has been considerable progress in reducing the number of outbound vessels," he said. "The tugs keep the ships in their lane and assures their speed is being controlled."

He said it could take another 36 to 48 hours before product is lightered from the barges and the vessels are cleared from the channel.

"Slowly but surely we anticipate breaking the logjam of vessels queued up," he added. "Traffic is flowing more aggressively. There's not the restrictions there were earlier this morning. That's not to say [the Ship Channel is] fully reopened in an operational sense, but we're clearly heading in that direction."

The Houston Ship Channel, 530 feet wide and 45 feet deep, is a major transit lane for petroleum, and its closure will delay the delivery of crude imports to Houston area refineries as well as refined products exports. An extended closure of the channel could be bullish for US Gulf Coast refined products prices, if refinery operations are impacted.

In 2018, 71% of 18,790 ships that traversed the channel involved energy, according to Houston Pilots data.

James Guidry, lead representative for Kirby Inland Marine, said the chief concern is the weight and movement of the water that gets pushed around and disturbs the salvage operations of two barges from the waterway.

The collision occurred at about 3:30 p.m. CT Friday between a 755-foot tanker and a tug pushing two barges near Bayport, Texas, the Coast Guard said. The tanker, named Genesis River, and a tug, Voyager, collided as the tug was transporting the barges, each barge loaded with 25,000 barrels of reformate, a gasoline blending stock.

One barge capsized during the incident; the other did not, and the capsized barge did not leak product into the waterway.

The damaged barge leaked just under 9,000 barrels of reformate into the waterway which has been isolated.

"I'd anticipate we'll be able to move ships even through the night as long as there is no impact or concern," Guidry said.

Kirby, along with the US Coast Guard and the Texas General Land Office, are part of the Unified Command for the incident.

In addition, salvage and recovery teams are lightering some of the remaining 16,000 barrels from the damaged barge, after which the 25,000 barrels from the capsized barge will be transferred from that vessel, Beuerman said.

"once the [capsized] barge has been lightered it will be moved to a repair area of the shipyard," he said. "That process is ongoing."

Afterwards product will be lightered from the second barge so it can be safely removed to dockside, he said.

Air monitoring, as well as checks on water quality and shore impact, were ongoing Sunday, but so far no air quality levels pose health hazards, Unified Command officials said.
 
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