November 27, 2021

Hurricane Matthew closes Florida, Caribbean ports

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094542w5_nl_smFrom JOC.COM

Hurricane Matthew has disrupted vessel traffic, closed ports at Caribbean hubs and in Florida, and raised alarms farther up the US South Atlantic coast as the killer storm moves north.

The hurricane slammed into eastern Haiti on Tuesday as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 miles an hour before moving north toward Cuba and the Bahamas. At least 11 deaths were reported from Matthew, described as the region’s most powerful storm in more than a decade.

The hurricane has caused havoc for ship schedules as vessels change routings to avoid dangerous weather. The storm comes a year after El Faro, a US-flag container/roll-on, roll-off vessel, sank off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, 2015, with the loss of all 33 crew members.

Container transshipment ports at Kingston, Jamaica; Caucedo, Dominican Republic, and Freeport, Bahamas, have been affected by the storm. Ports in Jamaica and Haiti were closed last weekend as the hurricane approached. The Kingston Freeport Container Terminal at the biggest port in Jamaica reopened Tuesday after closing Saturday, the terminal told

Forecasters said Wednesday morning that the storm was expected to move through the Bahamas by Thursday evening, graze the east coast of Florida, and veer northeast toward the Carolinas before possibly edging out to sea.

In Florida, the Coast Guard ordered a halt to cargo activity Wednesday at South Florida ports including Miami, Port Everglades, Miami River terminals, Palm Beach, and Fort Pierce. Farther north, Port Canaveral halted operations Tuesday.

The Coast Guard ordered a halt to Jacksonville vessel traffic, bunkering, and cargo transfers effective 8 a.m. Thursday in anticipation of gale-force winds. The Jacksonville Port Authority said its terminals would close at 3 p.m. Thursday and reopen Monday.

The South Carolina Ports Authority early on Wednesday said it planned to close truck gates at its Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals from Thursday through Saturday, and to close its Columbus Street and Union Pier terminals after noon Thursday and on Friday. Later in the day the port said it would be open for normal gate hours starting 6 a.m. Thursday and it would continue to monitor the situation.

The terminals are scheduled to reopen Monday. The authority said Wando Welch and North Charleston would be open till 8 p.m. Wednesday for dry boxes, but that no export refrigerated containers would be accepted, and that a noon cutoff was planned for empty and hazardous-materials boxes.

The Georgia Ports Authority said it planned to keep its Savannah and Brunswick terminals open Wednesday and Thursday, but was monitoring the storm and preparing for heavy rain and winds.

The North Carolina State Ports Authority also planned to keep terminals open but was securing equipment and lowering container stacks in expectation of high winds.

Several million residents of South Atlantic coastal areas have been warned to prepare to leave their homes and emergency declarations have been issued for parts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

The two eastern Class I railroads are also preparing for the storm, with CSX Transportation telling customers it will cease operations on its main line from Savannah, Georgia, to Pembroke, North Carolina beginning midday Wednesday. The company also suspended service in South Florida as of Wednesday morning.

Norfolk Southern Railway has not announced any route closures, but did warn that customers should expect delays in areas affected by the storm. The railroad also said it was positioning emergency resources such as ballast trains, generators, and other equipment to enable a quick response to any infrastructure damage that may occur.

Florida East Coast Railway said it won’t operate any mainline trains Thursday but will look to restore service Friday. The railroad, connecting Jacksonville to Miami with stops along the way, has also announced pulled back on highway pick-up and delivery times.

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