Port of New Orleans to shut down cargo operations as Isaac nears

27 August 2012 18:20  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The port of New Orleans plans to shut down cargo operations in the late afternoon, it said on Monday.

The New Orleans port issued a statement saying cargo terminals would cease operations by 1700 New Orleans time (2200 GMT) in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac.

The mouth of the Mississippi river has been closed to deep-draft vessels until the storm threat passes, the port’s statement said.

The Associated Branch Pilots, which pilot vessels ships through the mouth of the Mississippi river, ceased operations on Sunday night.

Two other pilot groups, the Crescent River Port Pilots and the New Orleans Baton Rouge Pilot Association, quit moving vessels early on Monday morning, the port said.

The Port of New Orleans Administration Building and cargo operations will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Most Gulf coast ports in the projected path of the storm, from east of Morgan City, Louisiana, east to Destin, Florida, are operating under Port Condition Yankee, according to a Coast Guard spokeswoman.

Yankee is the second most severe port condition code. Under it, any vessel movement within the port is restricted and must be approved by the captain of the port.

“You’ve just got to get permission, basically,” said Elizabeth Bordeland, port spokeswoman.

The most severe port code, Zulu, means the port is closed and hurricane landfall is expected within 12 hours.

The port operations in New Orleans are the latest to be disrupted by Isaac.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) began shutting down marine operations and would suspend oil tanker deliveries on Monday afternoon in anticipation of Isaac's expected landfall east of New Orleans, a spokeswoman said.

The deepwater port in the Gulf of Mexico planned to stop offloading oil tankers Monday afternoon, but would continue to make deliveries from onshore facilities as conditions allow, said LOOP spokeswoman Barb Hesterman.

The LOOP is the single largest point of entry for crude oil coming into the US, delivering about 1m bbl/day of foreign crude to refiners on the US Gulf coast.

Tropical Storm Isaac will likely strengthen into a hurricane before it hits the US Gulf coast by Wednesday.

Isaac's centre was about 310 miles (500 km) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi river, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was travelling west northwest at about 14 miles/hour.

By Wednesday, when Isaac could make landfall near the Mississippi, it will likely become a hurricane, with wind speeds of at least 74 miles/hour, the centre said.

Hurricanes can disrupt the North American petrochemical industry, since oil and gas production is concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico and many of the country's plants are on the US Gulf coast.

Additional reporting by Al Greenwood

By: Lane Kelley
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