26 January 2010 19:16 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Ships could begin moving on Wednesday through a Texas waterway clogged by a major oil spill, authorities said on Tuesday.
With more than two dozen ships waiting to get in or out of Port Arthur, the US Coast Guard will conduct test tows to see whether vessels can move safely through the Sabine-Neches waterway.
If the test tows succeed, the only obstacle remaining is removal of the ship and barge involved in the collision that caused the oil spill.
"They're hoping to get the ship out of the channel tomorrow," said petty officer Casey Ranel. "Then they could open the port to light traffic on Thursday."
Raymond Butler, executive director of the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association, said he was confident the waterway would open within the next 24-48 hours. "We'll be moving things through on Thursday, for sure," Butler said.
The spill's impact on oil prices so far seems minimal, with front-month NYMEX crude futures on Tuesday at $74.74/bbl, up less than 1% from the price before the spill.
The Texas waterway supplies oil to four refineries representing 6.5% of US capacity. The refineries, which have a combined capacity of 1.15m bbl/day, have been shut during clean-up operations.
Refinery spokesmen and oil analysts have said this week that the Gulf coast region has enough oil supplies to last through the clean-up period, provided the waterway reopens on schedule by Thursday.
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