Penoyer said at least one cruise ship, initially socked in by fog Saturday, was being allowed to end its trip and return to Galveston. He said others would be handled on a case-by-case basis. Its path into Galveston would take it through a safety zone defining the oil cleanup area.
There was no timetable for a total reopening of the channel, which typically handles as many as 80 vessels daily.
The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating what happened.
“It will take quite a bit of time, given the complexity of the vessels and a very busy waterway,” Penoyer said.
The contents of the torn tank, equal to about 4,000 barrels, were lost or displaced into other vacant areas of the barge. Penoyer said currents, tides and wind were scattering the spill.
“Containment was never a possibility in this case,” he said.
Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Jim Ritterbusch and Associates in Chicago, said if the bottleneck of vessels in the Gulf eased in a day or so, there likely wouldn’t be much impact on fuel prices. A more prolonged backup could push up prices briefly, he suggested.
Crews were skimming oil from the water and deployed some 60,000 feet of containment booms to protect environmentally sensitive areas, the Coast Guard said. The area is home to popular bird habitats, especially during the approaching migratory shorebird season.
Also closed was the Texas City dike, a popular fishing spot that goes out into the Gulf for a few miles.
Lee Rilat, 58, owns Lee’s Bait and Tackle, the last store before the access road to the dike, which was blocked by a police car on a breezy, overcast Sunday. If it weren’t for the spill, Rilat’s business would be hopping.
“This would be the first spring deal, the first real weekend for fishing,” he said.