Houston Ship Channel traffic could reopen Wednesday as barges removal begins

FILE PHOTO: A barge travels through the Houston Ship Channel, part of the Port of Houston, in Pasadena, Texas, U.S., May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Salvage crews began removing two gasoline barges damaged in a weekend collision with a deep-draft vessel, setting the stage for two-way traffic to reopen in the Houston Ship Channel on Wednesday, officials said.

About 11,280 barrels of gasoline spilled into the channel near Bayport, Texas, after a 755-foot (230-meter) tanker collided over the weekend with a Kirby Inland Marine tugboat towing two barges containing the fuel.

The removal of the Kirby Corp-operated barges could be completed by mid-day Wednesday and traffic could then restart, according to Bayport Channel Collision Response, a group overseeing cleanup and salvage operations.

Thirty-three ships were waiting at 8 a.m. CDT (1300 GMT) to enter the 53-mile (85 km) waterway connecting the refining hubs of Houston and Texas City to the Gulf of Mexico, down from 44 vessels on Tuesday afternoon, the group said.

Eighteen outbound vessels waited on Wednesday morning, with another 111 at anchorage awaiting transit.

Reporting by Collin Eaton; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jeffrey Benkoe

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