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News Release
FOR RELEASE - December 21, 2005
Contact: Aaron Ellis, aellis@aapa-ports.org
703-684-5700

American Association of Port Authorities
1010 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 684-5700
www.aapa-ports.org

Hurricane-Affected U.S. Gulf Coast Ports Coming Back Strong

ALEXANDRIA, Va.  (Dec. 21, 2005) – In a show of resiliency, strength and determination, most of the U.S. Gulf Coast seaports impacted by back-to-back hurricanes this season have returned their operations to at or near what they were before the storms hit in August and September.  Even those with the most extensive damage are reporting significant progress toward accommodating the normal volumes of freight and passengers on which their communities and the nation depend.

“I’m awed at the speed at which these hurricane-ravaged ports have worked to bring their operations back on line,” said Kurt Nagle, American Association of Port Authorities president and CEO.  “America’s seaports make up the backbone of our economy, so the faster they can get back to normal operations after a disaster, the better off we are as a nation.  The men and women who run these ports are showing terrific leadership in the face of daunting challenges.”

Examples of ports with operations at or near pre-hurricane levels include the Texas port of Beaumont; the Louisiana ports of Lake Charles and Fourchon; and the Alabama State Port Authority at Mobile. 

Port of Beaumont Executive Port Director David “Chris” Fisher said his port is back to 100 percent of operational capacity after being hard-hit by Hurricane Rita, while Adam McBride, Port of Lake Charles’ port director, offered a similar report, noting that all road and rail connections are fully functional again, and the port’s workforce has returned to handle all cargoes.

At the southern tip of Louisiana, Greater Lafourche Port Commission Executive Director Ted Falgout reports the petroleum-handling facilities at Port Fourchon are about 90 percent back to normal.  Although not all storm damage has been repaired, Mr. Falgout said that all berths at his port are fully functional and extremely busy as a result of damage to the neighboring petroleum service bases of Venice and Cameron. He noted too that Port Fourchon has filed about $6 million in claims with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for repairs and clean up around the port.

Further east, Alabama State Port Authority Director and CEO James Lyons said the Port of Mobile was open for business and handling vessels the Saturday following Hurricane Katrina.  Most of the port’s damage was from the storm surge rather than the hurricane itself.  “It took us nearly two weeks to clear mud and debris from our warehouses and to fully evaluate and start up equipment,” reflected Mr. Lyons. “We’re still calculating costs, but revised numbers show that our port sustained approximately $30 million in damage, and costs could climb further.”  Mr. Lyons estimated the Port of Mobile is 95 percent functional, with repairs completed in most areas and the balance to be finished by late spring or early summer.

Louisiana’s renowned Port of New Orleans and the two largest ports along the Mississippi Gulf Coast—Pascagoula and Gulfport—received the storms’ largest impacts. Even so, they’ve made significant progress to date.

Gary LaGrange, Port of New Orleans’ president and CEO, said his port has seen the return of about half of its normal ship call activity and about 60 percent of its normal trucking activity, even though approximately one-third of the port’s infrastructure was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  “We were able to get about 70 percent of the port's infrastructure back up and running within a few weeks of the storm,” he explained. “The Port of New Orleans is on schedule to be at 70 to 80 percent of pre-Katrina activity by March and about 85 percent of those who work directly for the port have returned to work.”

Mr. LaGrange predicted the Port of New Orleans will get a big spurt in cargo in the first quarter of 2006, driven by increased steel imports and increased plywood imports.

Despite initial devastation at his port, Port of Pascagoula Port Director Mark McAndrews said the seaport’s public facilities will be operating at approximately 75 percent of pre-Katrina levels by the end of December.  Temporary repairs have been completed at all the port’s terminals, and all permanent repairs are underway, with targeted completion of March 2006.  Rebuilding the freezer facilities, slated for completion in the first quarter of 2006, will return the port to 100 percent operational capacity, he said.

“We haven't had the difficulty obtaining labor that some ports have had, and all vessels are being worked as required,” said Mr. McAndrews. 

In addition to its own recovery, the Port of Pascagoula provided berth space for the USNS Comfort hospital ship in September, which treated almost 2,000 patients, and it is currently berthing the Holiday cruise ship at the port’s South Terminal, which provides shelter for 1,400 displaced Gulf Coast citizens.  "It appears we suffered approximately $10 million in insured damages and up to $5 million in uninsured damages and expenses,” Mr. McAndrews estimated.  “We’re still in temporary trailers, but construction on our administration building is expected to be completed by the end of January."

Nearby, Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport Executive Director and CEO Don Allee said Hurricane Katrina destroyed over 700,000 square feet of his port’s covered storage space.  “We’re progressively recovering from the hurricane, a little each day,” he countered.  “We’re planning on allowing poultry exports to go directly from truck-to-ship, and we’re currently arranging for a test shipment for the near future.”

The port has been able to put two of its nine ship berths back into service, enabling it to handle four ships per week: two owned by Crowley Maritime Corp., one owned by DOLE and one by Chiquita.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the shipping channel serving the Port of Gulfport was 36 feet deep. Following the storm, soundings revealed a depth of only 30 feet. To assist, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has nearly completed a dredging project to return the port to its authorized depth. Mr. Allee said that aids to navigation, particularly range-finders, should be in place in the near future. 

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