WASHINGTON: Port Houston terminals operated during the Labor Day weekend as the Coast Guard continued to ease vessel restrictions and railroads reported progress in repairing tracks flooded by Hurricane Harvey. The holiday activity came as logistics operations continue to recover from flooding that swamped the fourth-largest US city and caused damage along the Texas coast from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana state line. Houston’s public container and breakbulk terminals escaped serious damage but were knocked out of action by widespread flooding in the metropolitan area and an interruption of vessel traffic on the Houston Ship Channel. The port’s Bayport and Barbours Cut container terminals reopened Thursday, and the port said seven container vessels were due to be worked on Labor Day — three at Bayport and four at Barbours Cut. Six others arrived between Friday and Sunday. More than a dozen vessels skipped Houston calls during the port shutdown. International Longshoremen’s Association members filled assignments to staffed the terminals on Labor Day, which historically has been a no-work day for the union.
The US Coast Guard has gradually eased vessel operating restrictions it imposed amid concern about strong currents and shoaling. The Coast Guard said Sunday that ships drawing up to 40 feet of water could transit the Houston Ship Channel’s section extending up to Baytown Highlands, near the big Exxon Mobil refinery. Sections of the ship channel farther upstream remained limited to tugs and towing vessels. Houston’s public docks and private operators including Coastal Cargo reported no damage, but some private terminals sustained flooding. Vessels were restricted to 37-foot drafts in the Galveston and Texas City harbors, and to 38 feet on daylight-only transits at Port Freeport. Ship channels at Corpus Christi were reopened to 43-foot drafts last week. Vessel traffic hasn’t resumed at Port Arthur and Beaumont, which resumed cargo activity on a roll-on, roll-off ship that was in port. Railroads continue to inspect and repair flooded tracks throughout the region, in some cases using drones and helicopters to inspect lines made inaccessible by flooding. Union Pacific Railroad said it was making “great strides” in restoring service and expected to reopen lines to Baytown and Chocolate Bayou during the weekend. The railroad said a bridge over the San Bernard River near Angleton, Texas, would be out of service for at least two weeks, but that in the meantime, the railroad can operate trains between Houston and Angleton and Freeport.