[Updated] Puerto Rican Port Closure May Be Up to Operator to Fix

Yabucoa Terminal (file image courtesy Buckeye)

By The Maritime Executive 10-02-2017 12:18:16

The mayor of the port town of Yabucoa, home to a petroleum terminal that handles a significant fraction of Puerto Rico's fuel shipments, told local media on Wednesday that the harbor is not yet open for commercial traffic. Port officials report that navigation buoys were displaced by Hurricane Maria, leaving fuel barges without guidance for entry to the port. The mayor is working with National Guard officials to find a way to restore access for vessels as quickly as possible, but he said that progress has been slow.

For now, the Yabucoa fuel terminal is still sending out regular truck deliveries of gas and diesel from its existing stockpile, according to facility director Hans Rutzen Callegas. Callegas told media on Wednesday that the facility is loading trucks at a normal pace, but he noted that road conditions have made nighttime driving impossible in many areas, which may slow the distribution effort.

A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District Southeast told MarEx that Yabucoa is a privately operated terminal, making it the responsibility of the operator to restore it to service. He added that fuel is already flowing into Puerto Rico, and that the USCG is focused on bringing the key petroleum port of Ponce back online. 

Yabucoa’s terminal is operated by Houston-based midstream firm Buckeye Partners. A spokesman for Buckeye said that the firm could not disclose the status of the Yabucoa terminal’s maritime operations at this time, nor the percentage of the island’s fuel that normally passes through the facility. He noted that the terminal’s shoreside operations are running as usual. 

[Update: In a statement on October 2, Frank J. Belesimo, EVP of Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting Company, said that the port’s marine operations are back up and running. “Prior to the impact of Maria on the Port of Yabucoa, Cashman Dredging was performing maintenance dredging of the entrance channel at the port.  Before the storm, we moved our equipment to the south shore of Puerto Rico where it weathered the storm without damage.  We moved our equipment back to Yabucoa last week and assisted Buckeye with berth and terminal repairs and surveying the channel and harbor,” Belesimo said. “The channel, harbor, and terminal was opened for traffic and [Buckeye] took their first vessel on Sunday 10/1/2017.” ]