Mexican shirmping fleet leaves Brownsville after Tropical Storm Dolly passes

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Port of Brownsville returned to normal operations Thursday, after the departure of two Mexican shrimp fleets that sought safe harbor ahead of Tropical Storm Dolly.

The Coast Guard started receiving requests at 10 a.m. on Tuesday from the Mexican shrimp fleets homeported in Tampico and Campeche, Mexico, for their vessels to seek safe harbor from 13-foot seas and high winds. By late Tuesday night, 67 vessels with a total of 384 mariners aboard transited through the Brownsville ship channel into the safety of the port.

The Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department enforcement teams visited each vessel as they were permitted entry to vet them for security concerns, general safety and sea worthiness. These coordination visits began shortly after the first request for safe harbor was received and were conducted continuously until the last vessel entered in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Mexican shrimping fleets departed the Port of Brownsville Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, after 67 of the vessels gained entry for safe harbor from heavy seas caused by Tropical Storm Dolly. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Corpus Christi)

Mexican shrimping fleets departed the Port of Brownsville Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, after 67 of the vessels gained entry for safe harbor from heavy seas caused by Tropical Storm Dolly. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Corpus Christi)

The multi-agency Port Coordination Team consisting of the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas General Land Office and the Ports of Brownsville and Port Isabel directed the dynamic operation for the large number of vessels. The mariners were told to remain on their vessels inside the port’s security perimeter. CBP conducted security patrols of the port throughout the fleet’s stay. The port and ship channel were also closed to these vessels at night in order to control the flow of traffic into and out of port.

During the safe harbor operations, the Coast Guard, in partnership with state and local agencies, responded to three separate incidences of vessels running aground. The Mexican shrimping vessels Don Alvero 4 and Lissette ran aground along the Brownsville Ship Channel. The Jackie C. ran aground on the beach a few yards north of the South Padre Island Jetties. No injuries or pollution has been reported with any vessels. The Don Alvero 4 eventually refloated on the high tide and returned to sea. The Lissette remains aground but out of the way of commercial traffic in the port. The owner of the Jackie C. is developing a salvage plan for the vessel to be towed free. The Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and Texas General Land Office are monitoring both vessels and investigations are also being conducted into the causes of the groundings.

Originally the vessels were scheduled to depart early Wednesday afternoon but were held in port for an additional night due to sustained heavy winds and seas offshore. The first Mexican vessel departed the Port of Brownsville at approximately 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Again, federal and state enforcement teams conducted visits on each vessel prior to departure to assess seaworthiness and to conduct a headcount of each crew to ensure all mariners were accounted for.

“The Port of Brownsville once again came to the rescue and quickly provided ample space for these fleets to ride out the intense tropical storm,” said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response officer for Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi. “Completely ensuring all critical life safety, port security and environmental concerns were mitigated shows the great strength in partnerships with responsible port authorities, local, state and federal agencies. We are fortunate there were no major incidents or loss of life. Our focus now is on the salvage of the two grounded vessels and ensuring those mariners on board remain safe.”

This marks the second year in a row that the Port of Brownsville has provided safe harbor to the Tampico and Campeche fleets. Last September, 179 vessels sought safe harbor in Brownsville, ahead of Hurricane Ingrid.

Click the photo for more from the event.

 

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