Gulf ports open as containment box lowered
Work continued Friday morning on lowering a pollution containment chamber over one of the two remaining sources of the massive oil spill that resulted from the fire and collapse of the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon more than two weeks ago.
Efforts to lower the giant cofferdam were delayed for hours Thursday because of fears about a possible fire from oil fumes coming to the surface at the spill site.
If the containment chamber is successfully positioned atop the leak nearly a mile below the surface of the water, spill fighters hope to install a pipe over the weekend to divert about 85 percent of the leaking oil through a pipe into a barge.
|Crewmembers aboard the Joe Griffin look on as the mobile offshore drilling unit lowers a pollution containment chamber Thursday. The chamber was designed to cap the oil discharge that was a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley).|
A second cofferdam is under construction; a third source of leaks from the end of the pipe was plugged earlier this week when workers installed a valve on the end of the pipe.
Meanwhile, major ports on the Gulf of Mexico remain open as reports of the spill reaching barrier islands were reported.
The Port of New Orleans said late Thursday there were no restrictions on the Mississippi River. Current predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were for improving conditions at Southwest Pass — the main shipping channel into the Mississippi River — over the next 72 hours.
'We are continuing to coordinate efforts with the Coast Guard, pilots and all maritime stakeholders to ensure there will be no disruption to commerce on the Mississippi River,' said Gary LaGrange, New Orleans port president and chief executive officer. 'Conversations are ongoing with all of our customers and no one has indicated intentions of diverting ships away from the Port of New Orleans. We have every confidence in the Coast Guard, NOAA, pilots and all involved that commerce will continue uninterrupted on the Lower Mississippi River.'
Ships will be inspected upon arrival at Southwest Pass to determine if they need to be cleaned. The Coast Guard says ships moving at a safe pace through light oil sheen may not require cleaning.
The Captain of the Port, Mobile Zone, said Friday afternoon that port status was normal not only at Mobile, but the ports of Gulfport, Pascagoula, Pensacola and Panama City. Decontamination sites have been located in all those ports and along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway as well.
The Federal Maritime Commission said it is monitoring the spill’s potential effects on shipping lines, rates, schedules, ports and terminals. It said expedited review for agreements is available to facilitate adjustments that may be required as a result of the spill or response activities. It said if any regulated entity desires additional relief from or clarification of FMC regulations, they should contact the FMC Bureau of Trade Analysis. ' Chris Dupin