Port updates following Tropical Storm Harvey (4 September)
Sep 4 2017

As at 11:50 EDT Sunday (3 September), parts of Southeast Texas are still under an extended Flood Warning until further notice, with scattered thunderstorms expected in the Port Arthur area early this week. The National Weather Service is predicting that the Neches River will slowly fall to a stage near 18.4 feet by Monday (4 September) morning. Flooding is also occurring along the river in Beaumont and Northwest Orange County.

There is also a Flood Warning for the Buffalo Bayou near Piney Point Village in Harris County (West Houston) until further notice. The Buffalo Bayou is expected to remain near 60.4 feet early into this week.

Despite the flood warnings and river levels noted above, many areas are seeing conditions improve as flood waters recede. Progress will continue on restoration efforts as conditions allow.


The Port of Brownsville is open with no restrictions.

The Port of Corpus Christi is open with the following restrictions:

- Draft restriction not to exceed 43’

- Coordinate closely with Aransas-Corpus Christi Pilots to avoid meeting / overtaking situations

- All foreign registered vessels 100 gross tons or larger, all domestic tank vessels 10,000 gross tons or larger and all domestic non-tank vessels 1,600 gross tons or larger must:

conduct one way transits only;

have a minimum of 2 pilots for each transit

transit during daylight hours only.

The Calhoun Port Authority / Matagorda Ship Channel is open with the following restrictions:

- Draft restriction not to exceed 30'

- Coordinate closely with Matagorda Bay Pilots to avoid meeting / overtaking situations

- All foreign registered vessels 100 gross tons or larger, all domestic tank vessels 10,000 gross tons or larger and all domestic non-tank vessels 1,600 gross tons or larger must:

conduct one way transits only

transit during daylight hours only

The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is open between Mile Marker 492 (Victoria Barge Canal) West to Mile Marker 668 (Brownsville).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) advised that great progress has been made, with all critical surveys likely to be completed by Monday (4 September).


ATON restoration: We learned yesterday that great progress has been made with ongoing efforts, making the outlook positive.


Matagorda Bay Pilots advised that USACE surveys, as of 1 September, indicate pilots will need to decrease draft for vessels visiting all deep-water berths in Point Comfort to 30 feet saltwater.


Matagorda Pilots and the Calhoun Port Authority need to be notified of the arrival/departure information and deepest draft of all vessels scheduled to come their way.



The area stakeholders’ call yesterday afternoon revealed the following:


Weather is favorable for the short term and that is helping to facilitate restoration efforts. A cold front on Wednesday is anticipated and will likely impact the area weather.


The following is a summary of restrictions as at 12:00 Sunday (3 September):


- Entrance Channel / Outer Bar Channel / Inner Bar Channel / Bolivar Roads Channel - 24 hour transits allowed


- Galveston - 37' draft max-24 hour transits allowed


- Texas City - 37' draft max-24 hour transits allowed


- Houston - 40' draft max-24 hour transits allowed from the entrance Channel to Baytown Highlines


- Houston Ship Channel above the Baytown Highlines Tow Traffic - unrestricted, daylight only to the Sydney Sherman Bridge; above Sydney Sherman Bridge - transits are allowed only at VTS discretion


- Freeport - 38' draft max-daylight only


- Bolivar Roads Anchorage A/B/C - open 24/7 at Pilots discretion; short duration use for bunkering / inspections / husbandry (pilots may impose more restrictive limits)


- Intracoastal Waterway MM350 to Freeport - 24/7; this will change pending the results of depth survey efforts


USACE reported that survey operations continue. They resurveyed the Houston Ship Channel where it was showing 42 feet depth. It is now showing a more minimal shoal, but they have decided a third survey is needed for safety's sake. Some connectivity issues are delaying the posting of completed surveys, but most data should have been posted online by last night. They will start surveying between the jetties tomorrow. Texas City and the Intracoastal east information is not yet available, but Bolivar to the main turning basin should be available online as of last night.


NOAA: One of their contract vessels has completed depth survey work from the Galveston Ship Channel to the bar, and they were planning on having this data posted online last night.


USCG Aids to Navigation (ATON): The USCG said great progress has been made and only 20 aids are left that still need attention. ATON teams have been working hard to assess, reposition and / or repair aids to get all of them operating or on station.


USCG Marine Safety Unit Sector Houston Port State Control completed two ship exams at Bolivar Anchorage. Two more exams are scheduled for today.


Port of Houston Authority (POHA): Diving operations for sunken drydock at Brady's Island will recommence at 07:00 on Monday. POHA requested slow barge traffic in that area to insure the safety of the divers working there. VTS indicated they may close the area if needed or circumstances require controls for diver safety.


Houston Pilots advised that more information is needed on the obstruction between Baytown and BOSCO. They also suggested prioritization be placed, if possible, on the restoration of any remaining Galveston Bay ATONs.


Bunkering: Enterprise / Seaway is offering a location for bunkering ships greater than 500' length at Texas City dock 12. Ships must make their arrangement with the bunkering barge; Seaway is not offering fuel, only the berth for a suitable place to receive fuel. If interested, the following would apply:


- Port of Texas City dockage fees

- Enterprise nominal lay-berth fee, protective boom fee

- Protective spill boom must be arranged by the ship agent by calling Garner Environmental directly at (409) 766-0427

- To arrange dock availability call (409) 949-3705



The daily stakeholders’ conference call was held by the USCG Captain of the Port (COTP) and reported the flowing:


Restrictions on vessel movements within these ports will be managed by the Captain of the Port and Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Port Arthur. Initial restrictions are based on visual waterway and "aids-to-navigation" (ATON) assessments conducted by Coast Guard and other public and private assets. Vessel movement restrictions will be evaluated and updated regularly as additional surveys are conducted. Extreme currents require the implementation of navigational restrictions.


USCG VTS Update: USACE is hard at work trying to reopen the whole Gulf Coast. Because of the extreme currents in the area, along with the amount of the debris in the Neches River, they want to conduct a number of depth surveys over the coming days. A number of current meters are not operating properly so some current velocities are estimates.


USACE Texaco section is online and the Sabine Pass and Neches Canal depth surveys should now be posted on the USACE website.


USCG reports and ATON offshore are all in place. Aids not on station, on inland waterways have been identified and are scheduled for priority restoration. 


Realistically it is going to be Tuesday (5 September) or Wednesday (6 September) at the very earliest until traffic starts moving, based on water level and current predictions.


Army Corps of Engineers is reporting that they have four assets in the area doing depth surveys. These surveys are progressing well within priority areas.


Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Port Arthur office remains closed and inaccessible due flooding. Please contact the CBP Houston office at (713) 454-8002 for questions related to Port Arthur vessel processing.


Ports of Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange are all ready to go and are on standby to receive vessels when the channel opens.


Sabine Pilots: given extreme water currents it is unlikely that traffic will be moving before Tuesday or perhaps Wednesday. They are on standby and watching conditions carefully. Extreme water currents and heavy volume of debris is the concern.  


The general consensus among facilities and industry stakeholders was that most are all on standby and ready to operate when conditions allow.



Ship drafts are restricted to 37 feet fresh water.


Lake Charles Pilots Services are operating with normal movements as original orders are received subject to the 37 foot freshwater draft restriction.


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