Port updates following Tropical Storm Harvey
Sep 1 2017

Thursday (31 August) saw the limited opening of ports from Corpus Christi to Lake Charles. However, movements are not even remotely close to normal levels due to the specific area and draft restrictions imposed on ships transiting the ports in this range. These restrictions are due to ongoing flooding, unprecedented channel currents, facility inspections, a grounded drill ship, ongoing channel surveys and repositioning/repairs of aids to navigation that were blown off station or otherwise damaged.



US Coast Guard Press Release states that as of 14:15 CDT yesterday (31 August), the Port of Corpus Christi is open, with the following restrictions:


- All vessels are restricted to a draft not to exceed 43 feet.


- All foreign registered vessels 100 gross tons or larger, all domestic tank vessels 10,000 gross registered tons or larger and all domestic non-tank vessels 1,600 gross registered tons or larger must:

- Conduct one-way transit only

- Have a minimum of two pilots for each transit

- Transit during daylight hours only 

- The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between mile marker 540 (Corpus Christi) east to mile marker 668 (Brownsville) Mariners are advised that although some channel surveys have been conducted, the Coast Guard has not completed channel surveys in all inlets, harbors, and channels to confirm safe transit. Mariners are to proceed with caution as navigational aids may be missing or off station and debris, shoaling, and hazardous substances may be present. All other waterways of the COTP zone remains closed.


- Mariners are reminded the Corpus Christi Inner Harbor security zone, 33 CFR 165.809, remains in effect during severe weather. Recreational, commercial fishing and passenger vessels are not permitted to enter the security zone without permission from the COTP. Vessels must have prearranged agreements to enter the Inner Harbor as a safe refuge.

Additional details received today provided the following information:


- A grounded drill ship is being held by three tugs that will remain alongside until the ship is removed from its current location.


- Surveys of the entire Corpus Christi region have been completed as well as the remaining stretch of the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICWW) northbound.


- Matagorda Bay Channel remains closed pending completion of surveys there.


- A hopper dredge is now due into Corpus Christi on Sunday (3 September) morning.


- At the time Corpus Christi reopened, there were 26 ships waiting outside for inbound transit


- This area is still in the midst of a major flood. Beaumont’s water supply has been shut down and it is not expected to be online until Saturday (2 September) at the earliest.


The Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) of MSU Port Arthur conducted a Port Coordination Team (PCT) call yesterday at 11:30 hours. WGMA Port Arthur PCT participated on the call and provided this report:


- Favorable winds and sea conditions have been noted offshore. Winds from the west at 10-15 knots, and seas are at 1-2 feet. Similar conditions expected well into the weekend. All tropical and marine related watches and advisories have been cancelled for the Texas coast.

- The Captain of the Port (COTP), Port Arthur has set Port Condition Recovery for the ports of Beaumont, TX; Port Arthur, TX; Orange, Texas; and Lake Charles, LA including all tributaries and connecting waterways effective at 10:00AM on Thursday 31 August.


- Restrictions on vessel movements within these port complexes will be managed by the Captain of the Port and Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Port Arthur. Initial restrictions are based on visual waterway and "aids-to-navigation" (ATON) assessments conducted by Coast Guard and other public and private assets. Vessel movement restrictions will be evaluated and updated regularly as additional surveys are conducted.  Extreme currents require the implementation of navigation restrictions.


- USCG VTS industry stakeholders have run the ship channel and so far, things are reported as being pretty clear. Strong currents are another story. At least a few aids to navigation (ATON) were damaged and some buoys have been moved off station and must be reset before traffic can move. Ongoing surveys are underway.


- MSU Lake Charles: The unit has implemented Port Condition Port Recovery. Ship movements started at 03:00AM with a vessel sailing from the Port of Lake Charles. All movements must be approved by the MSU prior to scheduling a pilot.


- Lake Charles Pilots: The pilots confirmed that traffic is moving well since the port's reopening. They requested delaying an inbound vessel until Friday morning so to arrive in the area of the Port of Lake Charles after daylight, because of the strong currents moving through the area. There are only five more ships scheduled to come in and traffic should basically be caught up by about noon on Friday.


- The Port of Lake Charles advises that all conditions are normal and they will be standing down from Safe Harbor at 02:30 hours on Friday. Two vessels remain in port and will change to layberth status.


- US Army Corps of Engineers reports that a contracted vessel shall arrive tomorrow morning to work the offshore channel starting at the jetties. Other surveys in the area are ongoing with existing assets and more are on the way.


- Customs & Border Protection in Port Arthur remains closed and inaccessible due to flooding. Please contact the CBP Houston office for any questions regarding CBP Port Arthur vessel processing. CBP Port Arthur is trying to locate temporary office space in Beaumont so they can get operational again.


- The Sabine Pilots report that weather offshore is great, but they are facing unprecedented currents on the Neches River. We don't anticipate any movements on the River for several more days. The previous record flood on the river was 13' and they are currently reading over 18' and predicting a crest of 20.2' on Friday at noon. Several ships are experiencing severe surge issues and one is in a critical situation. Tugs are being used to keep it from breaking away from the berth.


- Currents on the lower ship channel are not quite as bad. They report that it will probably be Monday (4 September) at the earliest before traffic can safely move anywhere in the port (Beaumont / Pt. Arthur / Orange Texas).


- Motiva shut down their Pt. Arthur Refinery on Wednesday (30 August). Restarting it will depend on flood waters receding.


In summary: while Lake Charles, Louisiana is starting to see ship movements, Beaumont, Pt. Arthur and Orange Texas movements have yet to resume, and will not do so until conditions improve there.


- While there are five ships set to sail, they are not in or above the restricted area beyond Morgan’s Point. Other reasons for ships not moving are that they are over the present draft restrictions or the required facility inspections need to take place. Movements will start shortly for any vessels that are not restricted by draft limits or that do not have to transit through a restricted area. Baytown is one of the places above the restricted areas and therefore ships cannot transit from or to facilities there.


- According to the pilots, the current is running at ten knots in the channel due to floodwaters moving to the sea.


- A total of 14 ships are in port and 24 are at anchorage awaiting inbound transit. Currents in the channel are of concern to pilots. They are watching conditions closely.


- Additionally, all terminals must have completed this post-storm assessment and must be inspected by USCG prior to receiving traffic.


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