Gulf Ports Make Headway Towards Reopening

The Port of New Orleans was appealing to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for diesel fuel to run generators that would power the port. Port CEO Gary LaGrange said the port had secured transportation for the fuel if FEMA could supply the fuel. The fuel was needed to run ship-board generators that would power the port.

The Lower Mississippi River was open in both directions but the port was restricted to daylight operations and a draft of 35 feet pending restoration of power.

Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff was instructed to waive the Jones Act restrictions on petroleum and refined petroleum products where needed. The Jones Act, which requires only U.S.-built, owned and documented vessels be used in “coastwise” maritime transport, will be suspended only for petroleum products and only through Sept. 19, 2005.

Other ports along the Gulf of Mexico were reopening with at least partial service, except Gulfport, Miss. Mobile was open for barge traffic only and Pensacola, Fla. and Destin/Panama City, Fla. were open with a draft limit of 31 feet.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced its Atlanta Field Office was designated to oversee all cargo clearance and import-related processing for the affected area. The Port of Memphis was designated to handle all import-related transactions.

CBP also said merchandise imported for relief efforts are admissible and that questions concerning importation of such items should be directed to the port office where the merchandise is arriving.

Entry summaries and duty collections that could not be filed in the ports of New Orleans, Gramercy, Baton Rouge, Mobile, Gulfport and Pasagoula prior to the hurricane-related closure will not be deemed late or assessed penalties, according to CBP. The Port of Memphis has been designated to receive entry-related items that would have been filed in those locations.

Gulfport, Mississippi’s port director said the port’s east pier facilities had been “gutted.” An estimated 150 containers of DOLE Liner Express that could not be moved before the hurricane hit are considered a total loss. The DOLE terminal was flattened, said Don Allee, executive director of the Port of Gulfport. Crowley Liner sustained a total loss on at least 350 pieces (chassis and containers), the port director continued.

Draft at Gulfport remained to be determined given there were a number of barges and small craft submerged in the channel. Allee said indications were clean up would not begin until search and rescue had been completed and environmental issues were addressed.

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