Hurricane Dorian shuts US east coast ports

Credit: NOAA/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER

As the category 5-graded Hurricane Dorian slowly inches along its path of destruction, meteorologists from the United States National Hurricane Center have projected the storm will take a right turn from the Bahamas and travel northward along the southeast coast of the US. Ships intending to call at Atlantic seaports on the east coast face great disruption with inbound traffic prohibited at many Florida ports.

As US citizens celebrated Labor Day on 1 September, Hurricane Dorian raged in the Atlantic before finally making landfall in the Bahamas. The idyllic islands were battered overnight by one of the worst storms encountered since records began. Storm surges raised water levels by more than 20 ft above normal in some places, while roofs were ripped from houses, cars overturned, and power lines destroyed.

The US Coast Guard and maritime partners are working on a strategy for port preparations, aiming to balance the risk to port safety with the need to move commerce and potentially support areas affected by the hurricane. The group meets daily at Heavy Weather Advisory Group conferences.

Although Hurricane Dorian is not expected to make landfall on the shores of east Florida, the decision to close several ports in the state was taken ahead of anticipated tropical-storm-force winds of 39 mph, storm surges, and heavy rain, which would create an unsafe environment for operations within a port. All incoming vessels, including tugs and barges, have been prohibited from entering Port Everglades, Port of Miami, Port Canaveral, and Port of Jacksonville. As of 2 September, the ports remain closed.

With the hurricane expected to track further north along the shores of North Carolina, Atlantic seaports located in the state are preparing for closures as well, with shippers expecting disruptions to service. The Ports of Wilmington and Morehead City anticipate closures on 4 September but are expected to remain open on 2 and 3 September, subject to changes in the forecast. The Port of Charleston is currently open to commercial traffic and cargo operations continue.