Major shipping ports across the central US Gulf Coast are closed to inbound and outbound traffic as Hurricane Nate intensifies and storm surges of up to 3.
74 metres are expected.
The US Coast Guard on Saturday ordered port condition Zulu, a halt to all traffic, beginning at 8am local time for New Orleans; Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola and Panama City, Florida.
New Orleans, which sits near the mouth of the Mississippi River, is an important transit point for energy, metals and agricultural commodities moving to overseas and domestic markets.
Nate is expected to strike the US coast on Saturday night as a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, the National Hurricane Centre said on Saturday. At that intensity, it would have destructive winds of 154 to 177 km per hour.
Restrictions on New Orleans inbound and outbound traffic span the lower Mississippi River from the Huey P Long Bridge above Head of Passes to the Southwest Pass entrance at mile marker 20 below the head of passes, the Coast Guard said.
Gary LaGrange, executive director of trade group Ports Association of Louisiana, said he expected traffic restrictions to be lifted quickly once the fast-moving storm passes overnight.
“It’ll be short-lived based on the projected path and movement of the storm unless an unlikely event happens – such as two vessels colliding,” he said.
Vessels were still moving to secure berths at the ports on Saturday morning, he said.
The storm already has caused oil companies to evacuate workers at 66 production platforms and five rigs in the US Gulf of Mexico, according to the US government. As of Friday, operators had shut output equal to 1.24 million barrels per day of oil and 1.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas production in the US Gulf of Mexico due the storm, it said.
Phillips 66 also halted operations at its Alliance, Louisiana, oil refinery on Saturday. The refinery is south of New Orleans along the banks of the Mississippi River.