HOUSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday allowed some barge traffic to enter Port Arthur, Texas, home of the country’s largest oil refinery, and is considering allowing ships to enter on Tuesday, a spokesman said.
Ships are not yet allowed to enter the port along the Neches River because of extreme river currents from Hurricane Harvey, said Scott Whalen, director of the USCG’s Vessel Tracking Service at Port Arthur.
The largest crude oil processor in the United States, Motiva Enterprises’ Port Arthur Refinery, sits along the port. The 603,000 barrel per day refinery is one of the largest producers of gasoline in the United States.
Port Arthur, the Port of Beaumont and Port of Orange are deep water ports on the Sabine-Neches waterway near the Texas-Louisiana border and are the only three of 28 ports on the Texas coast still closed to ship traffic due to Harvey.
Survey results of the port are due Monday evening, and following an assessment the Coast Guard will determine if the port can reopen on Tuesday, Whalen said. Any reopening would entail restrictions such as daylight operations and on vessel draft, or depth.
“We are hoping to move it tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll try Port Arthur first and see how far we can get. Pilots do not feel it is safe to get ships into those areas.”
The Coast Guard currently has a two loaded barge limit for the Neches River, Whalen said.
Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Leslie Adler