Coast Guard shuts upper Houston Ship Channel near Baytown, Texas amid protests

(Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard closed the upper Houston Ship Channel on Thursday morning as 11 Greenpeace USA protesters blocked a portion of the country's largest oil port near Baytown, Texas, the agency said.

The channel is closed from Light 102A to Light 104, the Coast Guard said in a notice.

In a Twitter message posted by Greenpeace USA, protesters can be seen hanging on harnesses from the bridge over the waterway, with large banners flapping in the wind.

"We're in the heart of the fossil fuel industry (the largest oil export channel in the U.S.) to confront Trump & the oil industry," the message said.

The closure of the Ship Channel at that location blocks tanker ship traffic to and from five major refineries in the Houston area, including Exxon Mobil Corp's 560,500-barrel-per-day refinery in Baytown, which is 26 miles (42 km) east of downtown Houston.

One ship was waiting to enter the Ship Channel, which links the Gulf of Mexico and the Port of Houston, the nation's busiest petrochemical port, and two ships were waiting to exit the waterway, the Coast Guard said.

Ship traffic to Texas City, Texas, where two refineries and several chemical plants are located, was not affected by the closure on the upper Ship Channel.

Affected by the shutdown were also Valero Energy Corp's 205,000-bpd Houston refinery, LyondellBasell's 263,776-bpd Houston refinery, Chevron Corp's 112,229-bpd Pasadena, Texas, refinery and Royal Dutch Shell Plc's 340,000-bpd Deer Park, Texas, refinery.

All of the refineries are able to ship out products via pipelines and most have enough crude on hand to continue operating at maximum capacity for several days.

The Houston Ship Channel stretches 53 miles (85 km) from its entrance in the Gulf of Mexico to the Port of Houston.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston and Swati Verma in Bengaluru ; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

09/12/2019 14:40

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