Gulf ports making a comeback
The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) said Wednesday that a survey of Gulf Coast ports impacted by hurricanes this year shows that for the most part they are recovering well and coming close to returning to normal cargo and passenger volumes.
'I'm awed at the speed at which these hurricane-ravaged ports have worked to bring their operations back on line,' AAPA president and chief executive officer Kurt Nagle said. 'The men and women who run these ports are showing terrific leadership in the face of daunting challenges.'
The AAPA cited the Texas port of Beaumont; the Louisiana ports of Lake Charles and Fourchon; and Alabama's Port of Mobile as ports with operations at or near pre-hurricane levels.
Port of Beaumont executive director David 'Chris' Fisher said his port is back to 100 percent operational capacity after being hard-hit by Hurricane Rita, while Adam McBride, Port of Lake Charles' port director, offered a similar report, noting that all road and rail connections are fully functional again, and the port's workforce has returned to handle all cargoes.
At the southern tip of Louisiana, Greater Lafourche Port Commission executive director Ted Falgout reports the petroleum-handling facilities at Port Fourchon are about 90 percent back to normal. Although not all storm damage has been repaired, Falgout said all berths at his port are fully functional and extremely busy as a result of damage to the neighboring petroleum service bases of Venice and Cameron. He also noted that Port Fourchon has filed about $6 million in claims with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for repairs and clean up around the port.
Further east, Alabama State Port Authority director and CEO James Lyons said the Port of Mobile was open for business and handling vessels the Saturday following Hurricane Katrina and that most of the port's damage was from the storm surge rather than the hurricane itself.
'It took us nearly two weeks to clear mud and debris from our warehouses and to fully evaluate and start up equipment,' Lyons said. 'We're still calculating costs, but revised numbers show that our port sustained approximately $30 million in damage, and costs could climb further.' Lyons estimated the Port of Mobile is 95 percent functional, with repairs completed in most areas and the balance to be finished by late spring or early summer.'
The AAPA noted Louisiana's renowned Port of New Orleans and the two largest ports along the Mississippi Gulf Coast — Pascagoula and Gulfport — received the storms' largest impacts. Even so, they've made significant progress.
Despite initial devastation at his port, Port of Pascagoula director Mark McAndrews said the seaport's public facilities will be operating at approximately 75 percent of pre-Katrina levels by the end of December. Temporary repairs have been completed at all the port's terminals, and all permanent repairs are underway, with targeted completion of March 2006. Rebuilding the freezer facilities, slated for completion in the first quarter of 2006, will return the port to 100 percent operational capacity.
Gary LaGrange, Port of New Orleans' president and CEO, said his port has seen the return of about half of its normal ship call activity and about 60 percent of its normal trucking activity, even though approximately one-third of the port's infrastructure was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
'We were able to get about 70 percent of the port’s infrastructure back up and running within a few weeks of the storm,' LaGrange said. 'The Port of New Orleans is on schedule to be at 70 to 80 percent of pre-Katrina activity by March and about 85 percent of those who work directly for the port have returned to work.'
Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport executive director and CEO Don Allee said Hurricane Katrina destroyed over 700,000 square feet of his port's covered storage space. 'We're progressively recovering from the hurricane, a little each day,' he said. 'We're planning on allowing poultry exports to go directly from truck-to-ship, and we're currently arranging for a test shipment for the near future.'