May 14, 2019 / 4:27 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 3-Houston Ship Channel bottleneck eases after vessel collision -officials

(Adds preparing to move a barge, updates amount of fuel spilled)

By Collin Eaton

HOUSTON, May 14 (Reuters) - A bottleneck of traffic on the Houston Ship Channel eased on Tuesday though one-way travel restrictions remained following a weekend collision between a deep-draft ship and a barge, officials said on Tuesday.

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

West Texas Intermediate crude at the Magellan East Houston (MEH) terminal on the ship channel traded at an $8.30 a barrel premium to U.S. crude futures, up from a $7.75 premium on Friday, traders said.

"The ship channel situation has definitely influenced" prices at MEH, one broker said.

Forty-four ships were waiting at midday on Tuesday to enter the 53-mile (85-km) waterway connecting the refining hubs of Houston and Texas City, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico, up from 35 vessels on Tuesday morning, Bayport Channel Collision Response said.

Twelve outbound vessels were waiting, two fewer than at 6 a.m., said the group, which is overseeing the cleanup and salvage. Another 106 ships were at anchorage awaiting transit.

Thirty ships have moved through the impacted area over the past 24 hours, officials said.

"It's limiting the vessels and transportation capacity. I'm eating a lot of demurrage (costs)," said one crude trader waiting to discharge cargoes in Houston.

Salvage crews have removed all the fuel from one barge and were preparing to tow it away as work continued on the capsized barge, officials.

The capsized barge has six tanks with fuel that will have to be drained. The barge may be towed from the site before the fuel is removed, they said.

Crews have skimmed some 3,800 barrels of fuel and water, and deployed around 20,000 feet of containment boom surrounding the barges.

The Houston Ship Channel could remain under one-way travel restrictions all week, according to JJ Plunkett, port agent for the Houston Pilots association, which guides ships through the channel.

The Houston area is home to nine oil refineries that process 12% of the national total.

Shares of Kirby Corp, operator of the tugboat towing the barges involved in the collision, rose 3.6% to $82.52, after tumbling 4% on Monday. (Reporting by Collin Eaton; Editing by Tom Brown and James Dalgleish)

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