Houston’s shipping bottleneck could curb expansion of major US oil and petchems hub

An impasse has emerged between key operators on the Houston Ship Channel, a critical lifeline for growing US energy exports, as thriving activity in both tanker and container shipping has exacerbated competition for space. Before August 2018, fog shutdowns were the main hindrance to ship traffic in and out of Houston, the second-largest petrochemical port in the world. However, that month the first container ship to exceed 1,100 feet in length traversed the 23-mile stretch between the entrance to the channel and one of the port’s two container terminals, facing no oncoming traffic, while outbound tankers were forced to sit and wait until it docked. It was the first of 10 such ships with length and width too large to safely allow two-way traffic. All ships normally flow freely toward each other in the channel and veer around one another in a carefully orchestrated move dubbed the “Texas Chicken” to maintain consistent two-way traffic. According to the Houston Pilots, who oversee ship traffic safety in the channel, the bigger container ships cannot safely veer around tankers because they essentially become 54% wider when at an angle. All other oncoming traffic – whether waiting to get in or leave the channel… continue reading

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Source: CTRM Center

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