Caribbean, US Southeast ports brace for Hurricane Irma

Category 5 hurricane Irma, now the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2005, is threatening days-long delays and significant damage to cargo in the Caribbean and US Southeast, the American Shipper reports.

As of 11:00 a.m. eastern standard time, the hurricane’s center was just east of Puerto Rico, moving WNW at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. By Sunday, the center of Irma may be very close to South Florida.

Consequently, the U.S. Coast Guard has set port condition Whiskey for Port Miami, the Miami River, Port Everglades, Port of Palm Beach, Port of Fort Pierce and all other South Florida terminals and facilities, including the Port of Key West, effective at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday. Port condition Whiskey means sustained gale force winds from a hurricane force storm are predicted within 72 hours.

While port condition Whiskey remains in effect, these ports and facilities will be open to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations may continue.

However, ocean-going commercial vessels and ocean-going barges greater than 500 gross tons should make plans to depart these areas, the USCG said. Vessels desiring to remain in port must immediately contact the Captain of the Port (COTP) for approval.

Meanwhile, the USCG set port condition Zulu for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which took effect at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday. “While port condition Zulu is in place no vessels may enter or transit within these ports without permission of the COTP,” the USCG said. “All vessel movements are prohibited at this time, and all ship-to-shore operations must cease until further notice.”

Hurricane Irma is expected to hit the Coastal Southeast area this weekend wreaking havoc across the states. “Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has issued a mandatory evacuation order effective Saturday for Coastal Georgia. (Click here for details.)”  According to a press release from the Georgia Ports Authority, they will cease operations at the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick, effective Saturday, Sept. 9, through Tuesday, Sept. 12.Truck gates will close at 6 p.m. Friday in Savannah, while vessel operations will end at midnight. The Port of Savannah will not be accepting empty container returns Friday.

With the devastating affects hurricane Harvey left behind in Texas all hands are on deck for Hurricane Irma. Preventative actions such as those issued by Governor Deal have been taken to assist in reducing the damage to those who may be affected once Hurricane Irma makes landfall.