Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Houston Ship Channel

Sunday morning an electrical power structure was hit by a tug boat in the Houston Ship Channel.  The Coast Guard estimates that the channel may be open tonight, if not tomorrow.  The estimated cost of the three day shutdown (including waiting for upwards of four dozen vessels) is $1 billion.

Why the shutdown?  There are electrical lines blocking the passage to the bulk terminals and oil refineries (container ships load and unload at facilities on Galveston Bay, outside the channel).  Houston is the second-busiest port in the country after Long Beach.  The economic impact outside of jobs at the port and vessel delays may be on oil & gas futures, but that should be limited.  These refineries can be hit by hurricanes, causing bigger shutdowns than two days of incoming crude.

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