March 29, 2019 / 8:38 PM / in 7 months

U.S. Gulf Coast weekly gasoline imports fall to zero after waterway shutdown

NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Gulf Coast gasoline imports dropped to zero over the past week as a fire near the country’s busiest oil port disrupted traffic flow in the region, according to Refinitiv Eikon and Kpler ship tracking data.

Overall, March gasoline imports into the Gulf Coast, excluding components, are on track to total about 2.1 million barrels, Refinitiv Eikon data showed. For the week ending March 22, two vessels carrying about 641,700 barrels combined of gasoline discharged in the region, the data showed.

A fire last week at Mitsui & Co Inc’s Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) in Deer Park, Texas, sent fuel and chemicals into the Houston Ship Channel, which connects Houston to the Gulf of Mexico and is home to nine refineries.

The blaze led to the shutdown of the waterway and a subsequent bottleneck that cut 1 million barrels per day of oil and fuel shipments. The channel has since reopened with operating restrictions.

One vessel carrying gasoline was sitting at anchor on Friday just outside the port, awaiting discharge, Refinitiv data showed. The vessel, called Sunny Bay, loaded in Portugal.

A vessel carrying gasoline components from South Korea and Taiwan was able to discharge March 25, Refinitiv data showed.

Spot prices for Gulf Coast conventional gasoline spiked following the fire, and traded at a premium to futures for the first time since mid-February, traders said. Prices have since eased, last trading around 1.00 cent per gallon below the gasoline futures benchmark on NYMEX.

The New York Harbor is the biggest importer of gasoline in the United States. The Gulf Coast traditionally has been an export market for gasoline, given its heavy refinery presence. (Reporting by Stephanie Kelly Editing by Tom Brown)

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