Ports ready for Ike, others reopen after Hanna, Gustav
U.S. Gulf ports were preparing for the approach of Hurricane Ike, even as activities at East Coast ports returned to normal over the weekend, as Tropical Storm Hanna headed out to sea.
The Coast Guard said Saturday evening that sustained gale force winds were expected within 48 hours in Key West, and that due to mandatory evacuations, the last scheduled lift for the Jew Fish Creek and Snakefish Creek Bridges on U.S. 1 in Monroe County would be at 8 a.m. Sunday.
In New Orleans, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port here has ordered the immediate removal of all vessels moored in the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal (IHNC) in anticipation of Hurricane Ike’s possible landfall in the region.
Two separate orders were issued as preemptive measures to prevent damage to bridges or other structures in or neighboring the navigable waters of the IHNC.
One order was issued Friday to Southern Scrap Recycling, where numerous barges and vessels broke their moorings along the turning basin just north of the Florida Avenue Bridge during Hurricane Gustav.
The order states: “In that your company has not shown the ability to follow your Heavy Weather Protection Plan as hurricanes approach this port, I am requiring that all floating vessels at your facility, and those that you own, be moved completely out of the IHNC, turning basin, and Intracoastal Waterway in vicinity of the IHNC during Hurricane season.”
The Coast Guard said many of the vessels, including three decommissioned ex-Navy vessels, drifted north and west and ran aground on the north and west sides of the turning basin. It noted the federal levee flood protection system in the turning basin was not impacted and no vessels entered into the southern section of the IHNC, which was the primary source of flooding for the Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina.
The second order was issued Saturday to all other facilities within the IHNC turning basin and the IHNC section north of the turning basin to protect the bridges in this section of the IHNC. This order was issued due to the strong surge currents pushing water out of the turning basin north toward Lake Ponchartrain. This order is applicable as hurricanes approach the region.
“Both orders are necessary to help protect the City of New Orleans and to prevent disruptions to the maritime transportation system,” said Capt. Lincoln Stroh, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans and designated Captain of the Port.
One of the changes made to the Coast Guard’s heavy weather plan as a result of Katrina was the removal of commercial vessels from the southern section of the IHNC, which was strictly enforced for Hurricane Gustav. These new orders go another step further and remove all vessels from all sections of the IHNC.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Tropical Storm Hanna, The Captain of the Port of Savannah and Brunswick, Ga., on Saturday morning removed all hurricane readiness conditions that were imposed in advance. With the return to “port condition four,” the normal port condition during hurricane season. All marine operations including waterfront facility and vessel transits may occur, which are subject to prudent seamanship and safe work practices.
Further up the coast, North Carolina State Ports Authority said Sunday its ports in Morehead City and Wilmington as well as its inland facility in Charlotte had returned to business as usual on the landside.
Assessment teams determined Saturday afternoon that minor damage at the Port of Wilmington from Tropical Storm Hanna does not impede normal cargo operations. No damage was reported at the Port of Morehead City.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard have determined that the Cape Fear River navigational channel is unobstructed and aids to navigation functioning, and it was reopened to all vessel traffic at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Beaufort Inlet at the Port of Morehead City remains restricted. Vessels more than 500 gross tons and tank barges more than 200 gross tons may not transit this area without permission of the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port.
The Virginia Pilot reported that in Hampton Roads, the port was reopened Saturday evening after being closed at 7 a.m. due the expectation of high winds.
The Port of New Orleans had resumed normal operations Friday, three days after bidding farewell to Hurricane Gustav.
Terminal operations restarted on a limited basis Wednesday, as Coastal Cargo Co. began offloading cargo from the Federal Patroller, one of 11 vessels that remained in port during the storm. By Saturday, 13 vessels are scheduled to arrive at the Port of New Orleans.
Three gantry cranes were working the MSC China container vessel Friday at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, with Seaboard Marine’s Seaboard Pride, Hapag-Lloyd’s Bonn Express and Mediterranean Shipping Co.’s MSC Turchia and MSC Chile soon to be worked Friday night and through the weekend at Napoleon.
“We received very minor wind damage at the Napoleon Container Terminal and our crane team did an excellent job of getting all four of our gantry cranes back online by Wednesday,” said Gary LaGrange, president and chief executive officer of the port.
In the Port of Mobile Jimmy Lyons, director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority, said earlier this week “we’ve really dodged a bullet. We did not have any damage at our facilities and we’re fully operational at all terminals.”