More than 60 ships remain stranded in the Houston Ship Channel this morning as emergency responders look to skim gasoline ingredients from the waterway from a fire that occurred on March 18th.
The region’s worst chemical disaster in 14 years occurred after three tanks at an Intercontinental Terminals Co.’s (ITC) facility ignited and destroyed 11 tanks holding up to 3 million gallons of fuel. The leak prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to close a portion of the waterway, leaving a total of 60 ships stranded.
The Texas Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recorded benzene levels near the facility that didn’t pose a health concern, but authorities have mandated nearby residents to stay indoors. Symptoms of short-term exposure include headaches, nausea, and nose bleeds.
The Houston Ship Channel is one of the busiest commercial shipping facilities in North America, connecting Houston’s manufacturing and oil refineries to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Coast Guard plans to move a test vessel through the channel to determine whether a ship can resume travel without disrupting clean-up efforts. As of now, the San Jacinto River tributary will be opened intermittently for tug and barge traffic beginning March 25, 2019. Shippers should expect delays to docks at the ITC and Vopak terminals until further notice.
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