Shipping Prepares for Three Storms Off U.S.

Image courtesy NHC

By MarEx 2016-09-01 00:06:56

As three major storm systems approach American waters, shipping and offshore operators are making plans to mitigate the risk to their staff and their assets. 

Two cyclones are approaching Hawaii, Hurricane Madeline and Hurricane Lester. Among other preparations for the storms, the U.S. Coast Guard closed the Hawaii County ports of Hilo Harbor and Kawaihae Harbor on Tuesday night, and the agency called for "all ocean going commercial vessels and ocean going barges greater than 200 gross tons . . . to make preparations to leave the ports by 8 PM."

Vessel traffic will be affected, and island residents are bracing for the possibility of food rationing because of delays to cargo ships, said Galen Yoshimoto, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman.

“On an island, we can't roll things from one island to another,” he said.

Tug and barge operator Young Brothers said August 30 that it was cancelling Tuesday sailings from Honolulu to Hilo, Honolulu to Molokai, and Honolulu to Lanai, with the status of four later sailings still pending. 

In addition, the Norwegian Cruise Lines vessel Pride of America is altering its voyage plan for a tour of the islands, skipping Kailua in favor of an additional day at sea. 

Madeline is weakening and is expected to pass south of the Big Island of Hawaii, with a chance of tropical storm force winds extending as far as Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Hurricane Lester is expected to follow this weekend. 

The two back to back storms are an unusual event for the island state, which has only seen about a dozen hurricanes pass within 200 miles in the past sixty years. 

In the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Depression Nine has been upgraded to a named storm, Tropical Storm Hermine; it is making six knots towards the Florida gulf coast. Oil majors operating in the affected area have already begun shutting in wells, evacuating personnel and moving DP drilling rigs out of the storm's expected path. 10 platforms have been evacuated as of Wednesday. 

A storm watch for Hermine is in effect for much of the Florida panhandle and the system is expected to develop sustained winds to 50 knots, and the National Hurricane Center expects storm surge flooding to affect a wide section of the coastline.  

The Coast Guard has advised that there are "no safe havens" in the Florida ports of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Manatee, and that these "ports are safest when the inventory of vessels is at a minimum.”

"All ocean-going commercial vessels and ocean-going barges greater than 500 gross tons should make plans for departing” these three ports, USCG Sector St. Petersburg said in a statement. 

On the Atlantic seaboard, the Coast Guard command for the ports of Charleston, Brunswick, Savannah, coastal South Carolina and coastal Georgia set similiar rules in anticipation of Tropical Storm Hermine's arrival overland.