Coast Guard Captain of the Port orders vessels out of IHNC

NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard Captain of the Port here has ordered the immediate removal of all vessels moored in the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal (IHNC) in anticipation of Hurricane Ike’s possible landfall in the region.

Two separate orders were issued as preemptive measures to prevent damage to bridges or other structures in or neighboring the navigable waters of the IHNC.

One order was issued Friday, Sept. 5, 2008, to Southern Scrap Recycling, where numerous barges and vessels broke their moorings along the turning basin just north of the Florida Avenue Bridge during Hurricane Gustav. The order specifically states “in that your company has not shown the ability to follow your Heavy Weather Protection Plan as hurricanes approach this Port, I am requiring that all floating vessels at your facility, and those that you own, be moved completely out of the IHNC, turning basin, and intracoastal waterway in vicinity of the IHNC during Hurricane season.”

Many of the vessels, including three decommissioned ex-Navy vessels, drifted north and west and ran aground on the north and west sides of the turning basin. The federal levee flood protection system in the turning basin was not impacted and no vessels entered into the southern section of the IHNC, which was the primary source of flooding for the Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina.

The second order was issued Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008, to all other facilities within the IHNC turning basin and the IHNC section north of the turning basin to protect the bridges in this section of the IHNC. This order was issued due to the strong surge currents pushing water out of the turning basin north toward Lake Ponchartrain. This order is applicable as hurricanes approach the region.

“Both orders are necessary to help protect the City of New Orleans and to prevent disruptions to the maritime transportation system,” said Capt. Lincoln Stroh, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans and designated Captain of the Port.

One of the changes made to the Coast Guard’s heavy weather plan as a result of Katrina was the removal of commercial vessels from the southern section of the IHNC, which was strictly enforced for Hurricane Gustav. These new orders go another step further and remove all vessels from all sections of the IHNC.

“Having any vessel adrift during a storm is a concern and problem we take extremely seriously,” said Stroh. “Every storm we face produces its own set of circumstances that impact our waterways. Our responsibility to the citizens of New Orleans and the maritime industry is to be vigilant in preparation for storms and vigilant in response after the storm.”

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