Houston: Traffic on the Houston Ship Channel resumed on Thursday morning with the reopening of a section of the waterway that had been closed since a two-ship collision caused a chemical spillage on Monday.
The go-ahead came from the US Coast Guard after damaged chemical tanker Carla Maersk (44,999 dwt, built 1999) was salvaged and moved to Barbour’s Cut turning basin. It had collided with bulk carrier Conti Peridot (57,001 dwt, built 2011) causing the spillage of an unknown quantity of the gasoline additive MTBE from the tanker.
The liquid cargo was removed from the Carla Maersk’s two damaged tanks earlier on Thursday morning after high-density foam was used to suppress flammable vapours.
The Conti Peridot, carrying a cargo of steel, was moved on Tuesday to the Port of Houston Authority’s Turning Basin terminal.
Ships couldn’t enter or leave the waterway during the partial closure and at the time of the reopening on Thursday morning 43 ships were waiting to depart the Channel and 47 were waiting to enter.
MTBE is a colourless liquid that dissolves easily in water. While air and water tests showed no public health concerns, environmentalists called for continued monitoring of marine life.
Exxon, which had scaled back production at its nearby Baytown refinery during the delays, said it would return to normal rates.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the incident and its inquiries are expected to take a year.