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Ship Fire Temporarily Closes Sections of Houston Ship Channel

Fire
Fire damage aboard the Navigator Europa (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

By Reuters 2015-12-14 19:44:39

The Houston Ship Channel was re-opened after a burning tanker prompted a nearly three-hour shutdown of a two-mile-long (3.20-km-long) section of the largest petrochemical port in the United States.

The fire was extinguished nearly 90 minutes after it started, but the channel remained closed for nearly another 90 minutes as firefighters monitored the air to ensure no toxic fumes lingered, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Kendrick said.

"Initially it was a big fire, but it came down pretty quickly," he said.

Earlier on Monday, flames were seen shooting from the tanker Navigator Europa, moored outside the Targa LPG export terminal, according to a source and Reuters vessel tracking data.

A representative for Targa Resources Corp did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Kendrick confirmed that the tanker was loading ethylene when the fire started, and said no injuries had been reported. Ethylene is a chemical used in making plastic.

The shutdown held up three outbound ships and one inbound tugboat and barge, the Coast Guard said.

The closure could have temporarily halted crude oil deliveries to three refineries - Valero Energy Corp's 100,000-barrel-per-day and LyondellBasell Industries NV's 263,776-bpd Houston refineries, and Petrobras' 100,000-bpd Pasadena plant. In general, refineries can do without tanker deliveries for several days, as they also have pipeline access to crude.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton, Kristen Hays and Erwin Seba in Houston and Jarrett Renshaw in New York; editing by Bill Trott, Jonathan Oatis and Bernard Orr)

Additional photos by Petty Officer Third Class Dustin R. Williams, USCG District 8: