HOUSTON, Sept. 14 -- Stringent new safety restrictions and inspections of marine vessels to prevent terrorist attacks are tying up barge and tanker traffic in several East Coast ports and could cause shortages of gasoline and heating oil in some US markets, an industry executive charged Friday.
Even as industry officials reassure US consumers of adequate supplies of oil and refined products, marine shipments to East Coast markets are blocked by precautionary restrictions imposed primarily by local port authorities since the terrorist attacks Tuesday, said Larry Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation Inc., New York.
"New York Port was closed for 48 hours. It's got loaded vessels still backed up, waiting to get in," Goldstein told OGJ Online. "The Port of Boston has been allowing vessels to unload only during daylight hours, which means only a couple of fuel cargoes each day."
In some ports, he said, two inspectors are now required to board and search each vessel where no search by even one inspector was mandated in the past.
As a result, several shipments of gasoline and fuel oil are stacking up. "We're trying to convince them to at least make the searches while the vessels are underway," Goldstein told OGJ Online.
The market area around Bangor, Me., faces the most immediate threat of a potential fuel shortage. "But we've got problems all up and down the East Coast," said Goldstein.
The danger is real, he said, but no one has said much about it for fear of triggering panic purchasing that would make the matter worse.
"Americans wouldn't understand shortages and high fuel prices at this time. There really isn't a shortage of fuel, but we're just having problems getting it where it needs to go," said Goldstein.
"I've spent the last 2 days with the White House, the Department of Energy, refiners, and port officials over this. The good news is that we've finally got the government's attention on this potential problem," he said.
He's hopeful that movement of fuel supplies will soon be expedited.
Contact Sam Fletcher at email@example.com