The Houston Ship Channel was partially reopened to vessel traffic on today, three days after a barge carrying 900,000 gallons of oil collided with a cargo vessel, spilling about 170,000 gallons of oil into the busy ship channel.
The Port of Houston, passing on information it received from the Coast Guard, said 14 vessels were able to leave the port in the afternoon, and the Coast Guard intended to allow six or seven more vessels to sail before sunset.
Although the Port of Houston handles about 70 percent of the container traffic in the Gulf of Mexico, a port spokesman said the impact of the closure on container vessel traffic was minimal.
Most of the vessel traffic affected by the oil spill was related to the oil and chemical industries. The vessels are handled mostly at private facilities. The port authority operates nine of the approximately 150 facilities on the ship channel.
The Coast Guard reported that as of late today 29 outbound vessels were waiting to leave and 46 vessels were waiting to enter the facilities along the Houston Ship Channel. It could take up to two days to relieve the backlog.