Draft Restrictions at Sabine Pass Due to Grounded Rig

sabine pass
File image courtesy Carol M. Highsmith

Published Oct 22, 2020 2:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite the presence of a grounded offshore rig in the Sabine Bank Channel, LNG carriers are still transiting to and from Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG liquefaction terminal, AIS data shows. 

Tracking data indicates that the LNG carrier Arctic Discoverer transited through the channel on Wednesday night, mooring alongside at the terminal's wharf towards midnight local time. The LNG carriers Palu LNG and Stena Clear Sky have also called at the facility over the course of the past week, according to Reuters. 

The offshore rig-turned-floatel Jasminia ran aground in the Sabine Bank Channel near gated buoys 17 and 18 on Monday, ports agency GAC reported earlier this week. The grounding forced a temporary draft restriction of 32 feet - just over the broadcast draft of Arctic Discoverer. The draft restriction has since been eased to 36 feet, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Jasminia's last announced contract agreement was in 2013,and her last broadcast AIS signal was detected in 2016 at the port of Brownsville, Texas.

The Sabine-Neches Waterway is a critical access point for traffic to and from the petroleum and petrochemical hubs in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, Texas. Some of the largest refineries in the United States are located on the waterway, including the 630,000 bpd Motiva Port Arthur refinery, the biggest in North America. The channel's first few miles provide access to the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, the largest facility of its kind in the United States. According to the AAPA, the waterway is the third-busiest in the United States by tonnage (as of 2017). 

The waterway has already experienced several rounds of disruption this year due to the active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Earlier this month, during Hurricane Delta, Port Athur, Beaumont, Orange and Sabine were all briefly closed by order of the Captain of the Port. In late August, the Sabine-Neches Waterway was briefly closed for Hurricane Laura, and operating restrictions were in place for several days after the storm due to a floating drydock that sank just off Port Arthur.

In September, the Coast Guard implemented a temporary draft restriction near Sabine Pass after a product tanker struck a dredge pipeline, leaving a 1,000-foot section of two-foot-diameter pipe missing on the bottom.