Port sustains little damage, works to assist other ports, industry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Managing Editor

RESERVE — The Port of South Louisiana’s offices in LaPlace and Reserve closed, as Hurricane Katrina approached, but personnel remained active throughout the crisis, according to Director of Port Operations Mitch Smith.

Essential personnel from both Operations and Security departments first insured that all Port infrastructure and patrol vessels were secured, Smith said. They then sheltered in the Globalplex Intermodal Terminal office in Reserve, which has served as Command Center of emergency response for the Port of South Louisiana since Sept. 11, 2001, and braced for the worst.

The Port district came out on the other side of the storm relatively unscathed, Smith said, and as Katrina moved north, the Port’s Operations personnel began to move.

On the evening of Aug. 29, all available port operations personnel were recalled and by Sept. 1, two crews were in place to resume Mississippi River patrols that went as far south as the New Orleans region.

On the night of Sept. 3, the Port of South Louisiana was called out to assist in extinguishing a fire at the Port of New Orleans, Smith said. Both the MV John James Charles and the PSV Accardo, in conjunction with the Port of New Orleans’ fire boat, the General Roy Kelley, Crescent River tugboats, and with the assistance of St. Rose firemen, battled a fire at the Port of New Orleans’ Mandeville Street wharf, which started when off-site propane tanks exploded.

Then on Sept. 5, the Port’s emergency vessels were asked to be on standby for Valero as backup to the refinery’s water pumps.

Smith added that since Hurricane Katrina, the Port’s Marine Operations Department have also provided logistical support to the U.S. Coast Guard, officials of the Port of New Orleans and the St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District, sheriff departments’ tactical teams, and boat-crew members (for crew changes).

Waterborne transportation was also provided to Murphy Oil and Associated Terminals personnel, whose St. Bernard operations took a devastating hit. Associated Terminals is in the process of merging their St. Bernard operations into those at Globalplex Intermodal Terminal in Reserve. The Globalplex Intermodal Terminal outfit did not sustain any serious damage and is now undertaking dock, mid-stream, and buoy cargo movements.

The Port of South Louisiana Operations department is operating under a memorandum of understanding to communicate and effectively use all available resources to respond to marine events or emergencies on the Mississippi River in the wake of this region’s worst natural disaster, Smith concluded.

“I’m very proud,” he said.