Despite Dire Predictions, Port Fourchon Reopens Swiftly

Hurricane Damage in Port Fourchon (Rep. Garret Graves)

Published Sep 3, 2021 8:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite expectations of heavy damage and a weeks-long shutdown, Port Fourchon has reopened just five days after the passage of Hurricane Ida. 

The hurricane badly damaged roofs, buildings, power lines and storage depots in the port, and debris and washouts cut off road access on Louisiana Highway 1. That access has now been restored, though the port is asking that residents and stakeholders leave its use available for first responders and recovery workers. 

The port says that its tenants will be able to return to their shoreside facilities beginning at 0700 Saturday morning. The port's security team is on duty, and checkpoints may be set up along access roads as an extra protective measure. In addition, the roadways will be closed at night in order to ensure safety, as widespread power outages have left the route in the dark. Non-essential travel to the port is "highly discouraged" as it could interfere with business and infrastructure recovery efforts. 

“The structures are still good, not all of them, OK, not nearly all of them. But the majority of them are still good, and we can get things back up and running,” port director Chett Chiasson told media in a livestreamed briefing on Thursday. “For the most part, they’re going to be able to get them up and running fairly quickly.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has also reopened the port's waterways to navigation during daylight hours. Vessels in port can maneuver as needed, and navigation through the main channel in Belle Pass permitted with restrictions. Traffic is currently limited to one lane only, with no meeting or overtaking in the channel. Bayou Lafourche, the inland waterway that heads north from Port Fourchon, is still closed. 

To the west, the Houma Navigation Canal - a series of waterways and locks connecting Houma with the Gulf - is still closed. 

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which is the only terminal in the United States capable of accommodating fully-laden VLCCs, is also closed. In its last public update issued Wednesday, LOOP said that facility assessments and repairs are underway, but it gave no timeline for reopening. 

Noble Globetrotter II lost riser package in storm

The damaged drillship Noble Globetrotter II remains in position off the Mississippi Delta, five days after she sustained damage in Ida's hurricane-force winds. The effects of the storm broke loose equipment on deck, punctured a cofferdam in the moonpool area and injured nine crewmembers. The "weather event" also caused the ship to drop the lower marine riser package and several riser joints from its drill string, which was still suspended from the rig after it detached from the well. 

Environmental watchdog groups noted that the seabed where Globetrotter II was accidentally dropping equipment is home to countless oil pipelines, which carry crude from offshore Gulf of Mexico production platforms back to receiving terminals on shore. 

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has confirmed that it has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding damage to Globetrotter II.