Gulf Ports May Reopen Friday

Gulf Ports May Reopen Friday

The Gulf ports of New Orleans, Mobile and Gulfport remained closed Thursday morning in the wake of Hurricane Isaac as port executives waited to assess port and ocean conditions before reopening.

Although Isaac was downgraded to a tropical storm, the ports were awaiting a survey of port conditions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard to decide whether they would be able to reopen Friday.

“We’re waiting for the corps and Coast Guard to start surveying,” said Judith Adams, a spokesperson for the Port of Mobile. “Right now, we’re hoping to have the port open by Friday.”

She said the captain of the port is doing inner-harbor moves, but that the port remained closed to all inbound and outbound traffic.

“We’re still under Port Condition Zulu, and that will probably remain in effect until these winds and these seas start dying down,” Adams said.

The marine forecast was for 10- to 12-foot waves at sea and 4 to 6 feet in Mobile Bay. “Under those conditions, it’s hard to get the vessels out,” she said. “We’ll have to see this afternoon because the wind is pretty darn brisk right now.”

The coastal regions of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi were still getting sporadic bursts of heavy rain and wind that was expected to last through Friday as the hurricane stalled and move slowly inland. The biggest impact of the storm was flooding and downed trees.

Much of New Orleans was hit by power outages, but it could not be determined whether this affected the port.

Carnival Cruise Lines said it had to postpone the departure of the cruise ship Carnival Elation from New Orleans until Friday.

At the Port of Gulfport, about 1,400 containers had been moved out of the port since last week, with some stored at the old cotton compress 2 miles northwest of the port, while others are at a storage yard south of Interstate 10, according to Port Director Don Allee, who was quoted in the Sun-Herald. Allee said port tenants Dole, Chiquita and Crowley also secured other locations for their containers.

Other ports that closed over the weekend in anticipation of the hurricane, including Tampa, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, reopened Wednesday.

The port closures forced some inbound ships to remain at sea, causing delays in their turnaround times.

Contact Peter T. Leach at pleach@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @petertleach.