- Movement of ships through the roughly seven-mile contaminated zone of the Houston Ship Channel has resumed.
- The stretch has been closed since March 22 in the aftermath of a fire which resulted in serious water contamination with benzene.
- The queue for ships waiting to sail outbound and inbound through the affected area stands at 25 and 38, respectively.
- Aframax class and larger crude tankers are prohibited from leaving the ship channel area upstream of Tucker’s Bayou until the VTS draft limitation is fixed.
Movements of ships through the roughly seven-mile contaminated zone of the Houston Ship Channel between Tucker’s Bayou and Light 116 resumed at 8 am CDT (1400 GMT), reports Platts.
According to Steve Nerheim, director of the US Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service Houston-Galveston.
The stretch has been closed since March 22 in the aftermath of a fire last week at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. tank farm, which resulted in serious water contamination with benzene.
He said, “We are sailing ships right out of the port and are proceeding through the hot zone and expect to process 10-12 vessels [Tuesday] after we did five“.
Outbound vessels will sail with a one-hour spacing and all transits will cease at sunset.
The queue for ships waiting to sail outbound and inbound through the affected area stands at 25 and 38, respectively, according to JJ Plunkett, chief operating officer at the Houston Pilots Association.
Another four ships are waiting to sail inbound up to Light 116, which is located just up from ExxonMobil’s 563,000 b/d Baytown refinery.
Since draft for ships looking to proceed through the contaminated zone has been set at a maximum of 34 feet, due to limitations in the decontamination area, fully-laden Medium Range products tankers pulling a draft of 36-40 feet and Aframax class and larger crude tankers are prohibited from leaving the ship channel area upstream of Tucker’s Bayou until the VTS draft limitation has been relaxed.
Data from cFlow, S&P Global Platts’ trade flow software, show six tankers exceeding the 34-foot draft limitation, including the Medium Range tankers Altair, Beryl and Port Moody, the Aframaxes Searuby and NS Corona and the Suezmax Eagle San Juan, have been sitting upstream from Tucker’s Bayou since at least last Friday.
Delivery and loading affected
The suspension of ship movements in the ship channel affects the delivery and loading schedules of crude, petroleum and petrochemical products.
The 52-mile ship channel provides access from the Gulf of Mexico through Galveston Bay to various ports in Houston and other cities in the area that have many industrial facilities, including refineries, petrochemical plants and steel and metal facilities.
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