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Houston Ship Channel reopens for normal traffic

Houston — The Houston Ship Channel has reopened to both inbound and outbound traffic after a tanker-tug collision last week, a spokesman for the Joint Information Center of the Unified Response Team said midday Wednesday.

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"There are no restrictions at all -- no tow escorts are necessary, and it has reopened in both directions," Greg Beuerman, who is also a representative of Kirby Inland Marine, told S&P Global Platts.

As of 8 am Wednesday, 33 ships were waiting to move inbound and 18 ships were awaiting outbound passage, according to an early Wednesday bulletin by the Unified Response Team for the incident, compared with 44 ships awaiting inbound passage and 12 outbound Tuesday afternoon.

"But with everything now reopened to normal traffic, that's a problem that will quickly resolve itself under these circumstances," Beuerman said.

Early Wednesday, Unified Command for the incident removed two barges from the ship channel that had been damaged or submerged as a result of the Friday afternoon collision between a tanker and tug.

The tug was towing the two barges when the collision occurred -- one barge capsized, the other was damaged. The damaged tug spilled 9,000 barrels of reformate into the ship channel. Both barges were carrying 25,000 barrels of the product.

The remaining product from the damaged barge, Kirby 30015T, was removed Tuesday. Also Tuesday, crews determined the capsized barge, MMI 3041, could be safely floated and moved to shore without removing its 25,000 barrels of reformate.

This was the second time in the last couple of months in the ship channel was shut. On March 18, a tank fire at Intercontinental Terminals facility in Deer Park, Texas, impeded ship channel operations for several weeks.

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

The US Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office and Kirby Inland Marine make up the Unified Command for the incident.

-- Starr Spencer, starr.spencer@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com