Ocean freight transportation activities came to a halt late yesterday in several U.S. Gulf coast ports as Tropical Storm Isaac bears down on the Louisiana coast, taking aim at New Orleans seven years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.
Forecasters said Isaac could gain strength during the day and become a hurricane, with New Orleans expected to receive up to a foot of rain.
The Port of New Orleans stopped all operations at 5 p.m. Monday. No vessels are allowed to leave or enter the port. There are six vessels in port now, including the 778-foot container carrier MSC Nederland
, according to the port authority.
The port's storm plan calls for tenants to lock down cranes, remove potential hazards from wharves and secure all floating equipment.
Port personnel are in constant touch with the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and customers, the port authority said.
The Coast Guard will evaluate the Mississippi after the storm and determine when it is safe to resume navigation.
Meanwhile, the Alabama State Port Authority said it is under a hurricane watch. It closed terminals on Monday at 3 p.m. Other precautions it took include moving vehicles to higher ground, clearing the rail yard of railcars and sending barges away from the port. The board of directors meeting scheduled for today has been postponed until Thursday.
The Port of Gulfport, Miss., which sits closer to the storm's path, has made similar preparations, according to the local Sun-Herald
. A ship operated by Dole Fresh Fruit Co. moved up its schedule by a day Sunday to unload and head back to sea in advance of the storm.
The Port of Tampa said it reopened for business Monday after Isaac's track took it away from the west coast of Florida. Other ports in South Florida are also open again after temporarily closing.
The shipping blog gCaptain
cited reports from both the U.S. Coast Guard and the German ship owner Leonhardt & Blumberg that the 1,016-TEU containership Hansa Berlin
ran aground 20 miles west of Havana, Cuba, after its engine failed during the storm.
The blog said 19 crewmen were evacuated by helicopter and are safely ashore in Cuba, but that "weather conditions are currently hampering efforts to ascertain the exact status of the ship and cargo."
It added the ship was sailing from Santiago de Cuba to Havana when the grounding occurred. - Eric Kulisch