Fog stops more vessel traffic in east Texas ports and channels

15 December 2011 18:12  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Nearly 100 vessels were stalled at ship channels along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf coast as thick fog brought traffic to a standstill, the US Coast Guard said on Thursday.

Pilots suspended ship movements at seven ports from Houston, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, because of the fog blanketing the region. Ninety-nine vessels were stopped in those ports and channels, according to the Coast Guard.

The ports include Houston, Galveston, Texas City, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Sabine Pass and Lake Charles. Fog was up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) offshore, according to the Houston Port Coordination Team.

Most of the vessel stoppage was on the Houston Ship Channel, where the fog made any transit unsafe, said Zack Edwards, a controller with the US Coast Guard.

“Because of the fog conditions and visibility near zero, we deemed it not safe for the Port of Houston pilots and Galveston pilots to safely navigate vessels through the channel," Edwards said on Thursday.

Heavy fog is common on the Houston Ship channel during the winter months. In February, the waterway was closed for 11 consecutive days because of fog.

On Thursday, 67 vessels were stalled on the Houston Ship Channel, with 54 waiting to enter the waterway and 13 outbound, said petty officer Richard Brahm.

Brahm said the fog had thickened in the past 24 hours and that weather reports said it should clear up later on Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued a dense fog advisory for the area from Beaumont to Lake Charles until late Thursday evening.

In Galveston, six ships were stalled, five inbound and one outbound, Brahm said.

Edwards said that in Port Arthur, 12 ships were waiting to enter and six waiting to leave.

The backups all stem from the fog that has blanketed the area the past two days and not from the aftermath of an accident in the Houston ship channel on Tuesday, Edwards said.

The accident involved the collision of  an acetone tanker and an empty cargo vessel near Texas City that caused part of the channel to be closed.

Further east, the Sabine Pass shipping channel at the Texas-Louisiana border has been closed since early Tuesday, said Derek Rutherford, a dispatcher with the Sabine Pilots Association.

At Lake Charles, 14 vessels were stopped, four inbound and 10 outbound, Brahm said.

Additional reporting by Ruth Liao

For more on acetone visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Lane Kelley
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