With the next potential hurricane already sweeping through Central America, the U.S. Coast Guard has set port conditions and restricted vessel traffic for Gulf Coast ports from Louisiana to Florida.
Tropical Storm Nate may hit New Orleans as soon as Saturday.
The latest hurricane of an already tumultuous storm season is currently making its way through Central America and the U.S. Gulf Coast could be next.
As a result of projections for Tropical Storm Nate that anticipate the system strengthening to a category 1 hurricane before making landfall in Louisiana, the U.S. Coast Guard has set the port conditions for New Orleans and Mobile to X-Ray and Whiskey, respectively.
This signifies that, “all oceangoing vessels and barges over 500 gross tons will be required to depart the ports and head out to sea when Hurricane Condition Yankee is set; generally 24 hours before the on-set of gale force winds. Inland vessels and barges greater than 500 gross tons are required to seek safe refuge in a port outside of the impacted ports,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
“Ports and mariners are cautioned that the Captain of the Port (COTP) New Orleans may quickly set Port Condition Yankee and further conditions as the situation develops. The COTP anticipates setting Port Condition Yankee at 4:00 p.m. local time, October 06, 2017,” USCG said.
Additionally, due to the lack of available space in the Lower Mississippi River, the COTP has closed the river to all inbound vessels that do not have berth arrangements confirmed by the appropriate pilot. The traffic in Egmont Channel has been restricted to one way for vessels with drafts greater than 34 feet as well.
Port condition Whiskey was set for the ports of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Manatee and the entire Captain of the Port Zone Mobile, including Gulf Intercoastal Waterway (GICWW), Port of Panama City, Port of Pensacola, Port of Mobile, Port of Pascagoula and Port of Gulfport, the Coast Guard said.
The Alabama State Port Authority said it was limiting some traffic and had asked for all ships to be finished loading and unloading by 6 p.m. Friday.
According to the latest Maersk Line customer advisory, New Orleans Terminal will not be accepting any specialized cargo, such as refrigerated, hazardous, or O.O.G. cargo on Friday, Oct. 6. The terminal at Mobile will be closing at 3:00pm on Friday and is expecting a Monday, Oct. 9 closure as well, and is only allowing import pickups and export reefer pickups, the Maersk Line notice stated.
Currently, only one vessel on a Maersk Line service, the MSC Toronto, is affected by the port restriction. The vessel , sailing on the TA6, has a delayed entry into New Orleans, according to Maersk.
Tropical Storm Nate, which has already killed at least ten people in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, is expected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast on Saturday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
As a result, oil refineries, including Exxon Mobile Corp, Statoil, BP Plc and Chevron Corp in the gulf have evacuated staff and suspended operations. Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Anadarko Petroleum Corp have suspended some production and some drilling activity in the Gulf, according to a report from Reuters.
The current storm path path affects oil pumps that produce 1.6 million barrels of crude per day (bpd), or 17 percent of U.S. output. .As of Thursday, about 14.6 percent of U.S. Gulf oil production – 254,607 bpd – was offline, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said.