Busiest US petchem port about to get even busier, compounding congestion

The cheap US natural gas boom triggered a slew of new and expanded chemical production that is poised to amplify vessel traffic in the already bustling Houston Ship Channel, home to the largest US petrochemical port and second only to Rotterdam in the world. While growth is welcomed, shipbrokers and other industry players expect the Port of Houston, already teeming with liquid chemical tanker traffic, to become more so as too-few berths and fog shutdowns can strangle efficient commerce. Much attention has been focused on increased polyethylene output as the first wave of new ethane crackers and associated PE plants at or near the Port of Houston start up this year through 2019, pumping out plastic pellets largely destined for export-bound containers to meet global demand. However, industry players expect increased movements of liquid chemicals as well with more tankers moving monoethylene glycol, caustic soda, benzene, styrene and others in or out of the 52-mile Houston Ship Channel as new and expanded processing infrastructure starts up. Shipbrokers say the channel already is clogged as tankers maneuver for available berths. Lines form quickly when vessel traffic is held up by fog, accidents or other issues. Vessels cannot loiter at berths, and

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Source: CTRM Center

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