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Gulf Coast ports reopen as Harvey flood waters recede

The U.S. Gulf Coast region’s supply chain was back in motion on Friday, as ports and rail lines resumed operations, truck gates opened and vessels berthed with limited channel restrictions.

While some highways are still underwater, trucks are now able to enter the Houston area as flood waters begin to recede.

   The ports of Houston, Galveston and Corpus Christi are once again open for business, but with a few channel restrictions, including one-way vessel movements, daylight-only transits and draft restrictions of 43 feet.
   After almost a week of suspended operations as Hurricane Harvey lashed the U.S. Gulf Coast with heavy rains and flooding, more than 20 vessels are awaiting berth assignments. The Port of Corpus Christi said it will allow seven local refineries to startup operations in an effort to serve the already-short transportation fuels markets in the region and nation.
   The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has also announced a “Regional Emergency Declaration” in 26 Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard states as well as the District of Columbia. The emergency declaration provides certain exemptions for motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance by transporting fuel products. Driver are ultimately granted emergency relief from 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, said FMCSA.
   Port of Houston said there was no evidence of flooding on terminals and no visible damage to containers, cranes or other equipment. Power to refrigerated containers was still operational, port officials said.
   BNSF rail yards at Silsbee, Galveston and Beaumont remain closed due to flooding, but the rail line’s South Yard, Dayton Yard and Casey Yard have reopened with limited operations. The Houston (Pearland) Intermodal Facility and Automotive Facility is accessible through an automated gate system (AGS) and train loading and unloading operations have resumed, said the Fort Worth, Texas-based Class I railway.
   “We continue to re-route or divert as much traffic as possible around the area until flood waters recede and storm damaged lines can be repaired. Routes are open into central Texas and traffic is moving through San Antonio, including trains destined for Mexico through our Eagle Pass gateway,” said BNSF.
   ABF Freight said Harvey-related complications are interrupting service in Houston, Dallas, Little Rock, and San Antonio while Averitt Express LTL trucking terminals in Houston and Beaumont, Texas, were closed Thursday. Limited trucking services were open at Austin, Corpus Christi and San Antonio, Texas, facilities, said Averitt Express.
   Industry officials warned customers that not all highways were clear of flooding and debris so while truck gates at the major ports would be functional beginning at 7 a.m. Friday, some lanes would be closed.
   “While urban search and rescue remains our top priority, we understand the importance of reopening ports and waterways, which are vital to the flow of goods and services throughout our nation,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Kevin D. Oditt said in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal.

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Averitt Express (No. 24).