Port condition Whiskey set for upper Chesapeake Bay

BALTIMORE – In preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Earl, the Coast Guard in Baltimore has set port condition Whiskey for the Captain of the Port zone.

This zone encompasses the Port of Baltimore, the upper Chesapeake Bay and surrounding areas.

Maritime hurricane condition Whiskey is a heightened condition of readiness prior to arrival of potential gale force winds associated with Earl. During the Whiskey condition, the port is open to all commercial traffic.

Gale force gusts of 33 knots or 38 mph are expected to reach Ocean City, Md., within 48 hours. Pleasure craft operators are advised to seek safe harbor. To enter, transit or remain within this zone, vessels must comply with the following requirements:

1. All commercial vessels and barges greater than 500 gross tons, and all tank barges greater than 200 gross tons, desiring to remain in port must arrange safe mooring and must submit in writing to the Captain of the Port a remain-in-port request form. The Coast Guard will review the request forms to assure mooring arrangements are safe and sufficient. Failure to submit the request form may require the Coast Guard to intervene under our Captain of the Port authority to direct or control vessel movement or mooring. Fax request forms to 410-576-2536.

2. Since Baltimore is an inland port, commercial vessels and barges over 500 gross tons, and tank barges over 200 gross tons, which do not intend to remain in port must make plans to depart the northern Chesapeake Bay no later than 24 hours prior to the onset of gale force winds on their transit route through either Hampton Roads or Delaware Bay.

3. Commercial vessels and barges bound for the upper Chesapeake Bay, including the Ports of Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington, D.C., and Salisbury, should closely monitor conditions in both the Delaware Bay and Hampton Roads and seek alternate destinations if they would enter or transit through those ports.

4. Facilities that do not intend to allow vessels to remain moored at their facility during the storm must provide sufficient notice to the vessel to allow time for the vessel to move to a safe mooring, hurricane anchorage or depart to sea. It must be understood that the initial decision to allow a vessel to remain moored to a facility for the duration of a hurricane rests primarily with the facility owner, operator, and/or person-in-charge. The facility or vessel must then request permission and receive a verification number from the Captain of the Port for commercial, oceangoing vessels and barges over 500 gross tons to remain at the facility. The owner, operator and/or person-in-charge of a facility and the masters, owners, operators, and/or agents of a vessel are primarily responsible for the safety and security of their facilities and vessels. The Captain of the Port will not arbitrate disputes between facilities and the vessels moored thereto. The Captain of the Port will continuously review the status of all hurricane preparations, vessel and facility, and direct the correction of dangerous conditions.

5. Commercial vessels and barges at lay berths and repair facilities should, as necessary, develop plans to shift to an alternate location or berth. Plans should include the number and source of tugs, the permits required and the agency responsible for approving them, and safety/security arrangements appropriate to the new mooring/berth.

6. Small craft should be hauled out sufficiently in advance of gale force winds and secured away from the effects of possible storm surge and high winds.

7. Mariners and port interests are also advised that drawbridges will remain closed when wind speeds are 34 knots or greater, and/or when evacuations begin. Because of extreme uncertainty in the forecast track and intensity of the storm at this early date, mariners and port interests should seek safe transit through drawbridges well in advance of gale force winds and bearing the total transit times in mind.

For guidance on specific issues or to obtain vessel applications to remain in port, contact the Sector Baltimore command center at 410-576-2512.

A vessel application checklist can be obtained online at http://homeport.uscg.mil. Select Baltimore in the Port Directory. The checklist is located under the “Local Contingency Plans” header selecting the “Upper Chesapeake Bay Maritime Hurricane Contingency Plan 2009” link.

For updates on port conditions in Baltimore call 410-576-2512.

For more information on Earl, visit the National Hurricane Center Web site http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

For more information regarding port conditions, click here.

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