By DAN MURTAUGH and BARBARA POWELL
The Houston Ship Channel, home to the nations largest
complex and export
port, reopened all lanes of traffic for the first time
since a March 22 oil spill.
Voyages are restricted to daylight hours, Captain Clint
Winegar, vice president of Houston Ship Pilots, said in a
telephone interview. Five vessels are entering the channel
and 15 are on their way outbound, he said. Fifteen to 20
more should be able to enter the channel before dark.
Priority is being given to cargoes of crude oil,
perishables, refrigerated goods and cars.
As soon as we go to 24 hours, within a couple of days
well be back to normal, Winegar said. The Coast
Guard will determine when daylight restrictions are lifted,
As of 6:30 a.m. local time, 51 vessels were waiting to come
into the channel and 36 were waiting to leave, Lieutenant
Sam Danus of US Coast Guard said by telephone.
ExxonMobil is receiving crude shipments again at its
in Baytown, Texas, Todd
Spitler, spokesman for the Irving, Texas-based company,
said by e-mail. The refinery
, which reduced rates
after the channel closed, will now adjust them accordingly,
Representatives for Valero Energy, Marathon Petroleum and
Royal Dutch Shell, which own all or part of refineries on
the 52-mile (84-kilometer) shipping lane, have declined to
discuss operations at those plants. The combined capacity
of refineries dependent on the ship channel is 2.1 million
bpd, said Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in
The spill of 4,000 bbl of bunker fuel occurred when a barge
being towed by the vessel Miss Susan was struck at 12:35
p.m. local time March 22 by the 585-foot bulk carrier
Summer Wind, causing one of the barges six tanks to
leak fuel oil, the Coast Guard said. The fuel from the
remaining five tanks has been removed and the vessel will
be moved to a local shipyard.
The leaking vessel was identified as Kirby Barge 27706,
according to the Port of Houston Authority. The Summer
Wind, a Liberian-flagged vessel owned by Sea Galaxy Marine,
was operated by Cleopatra Shipping Agency, said Greg
Beuerman, a spokesman for the Joint Information Center
responding to the spill.
There were six collisions in the channel last year, Coast
Guard data show. Incidents closed the waterway for 26 hours
in 2013, compared with 5.5 hours in 2012 and 157.2 hours in
2011. An average day on the channel in 2013 saw 38 tankers,
22 freighters, one cruise ship, 345 tows, six public
vessels, 297 ferries, 25 other transits and 75 ships in
In 2013, an average of 2.15 million bpd of products
including gasoline and diesel were exported from the Gulf
Coast, and 3.76 million bpd of crude were imported,
according to the Energy Information Administration.
The remaining slick is off the coast of Matagorda Island
and expected to reach the islands shore at midnight,
Mike Cox, a spokesman at the Joint Information Center
handling the spill, said by phone. So far it has killed 19
birds, and 11 others are in rehabilitation.
The damage to bird habitats appears to be contained to the
immediate vicinity of the spill, Audubon Texas said in an
e- mailed statement yesterday. The group is the state
program of the National Audubon Society. Hundreds of
thousands of birds are arriving in Galveston Bay at this
time of year for spring migration.