Port of New Orleans facilities were spared serious damage in the wake of Hurricane Gustav and Coast Guard and Port officials are working to expedite the reopening of the Mississippi River to deep-draft vessel traffic.

“Our Mississippi River facilities, which constitute more than 80 percent of our cargo operations, received very minimal wind damage,” said Port President and CEO Gary P. LaGrange. “We’ve been in touch with all of our terminal operators and are working with them to restart cargo operations as soon as possible.”

The U.S. Coast Guard has reopened the Mississippi River to shallow-draft vessels and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA and the Coast Guard will inspect the channel at Southwest Pass today to determine if deep-draft vessels will be allowed to enter the River. Port officials are also taking soundings of its berths and approaches from the channel to determine if they require maintenance dredging.

Overall, the Port sustained minimal damage to its Mississippi River facilities from the Henry Clay Avenue Wharf upriver to the Alabo Street Terminal downriver. Minor damage, such as damaged fencing, transformers, doors and signage, was reported. Mississippi River terminals constitute more than 80 percent of the Port’s cargo operations.

Power has also been restored to the Louisiana Avenue Terminal facility and assessments  found all loaded containers at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal were in place and undamaged – only a few empty containers were toppled from their stacks in the marshalling yard.

“All of our preparations and plans worked well and we anticipate restarting operations as soon as power is restored and the population is allowed back into the City,” said Jeff Hakala, vice president of New Orleans Terminals, which operates half of the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal.

Some of the Port’s cargo facilities on the eastern side of the Industrial Canal (Inner Harbor Navigation Canal), which are outside of the levee system, received flooding. More information on this area of the Port, which makes up less than 20 percent of the Port’s operations, will be made available after a more thorough assessment.

The St. Claude Avenue Bridge, which has been in the lowered position since before Gustav made landfall, is open to emergency vehicular traffic. However, the floodgates on the approaches to the Florida Avenue, Almonaster and Seabrook bridges remain closed – effectively closing them to vehicular traffic. Port officials have electrical contractors, bridge engineers and support personnel at its bridges across the Industrial Canal to prepare them to resume operations.

Several vessels in the Industrial Canal broke free from their moorings and came to rest near the bridges. Tug boats and linesmen arrived at the scene today to assist in securing the vessels. The Coast Guard will orchestrate the operations to ensure the vessels are secure.

Assessments of coffee warehouses found none received any flooding and only one received minor roof damage, according to Port officials. The Port of New Orleans has many coffee warehouses located throughout the City, along with six roasting facilities. Since 2000, the Port averaged 260,000 tons of coffee per year and currently ranks second only to New York City in U.S. coffee stocks – the amount of coffee bags stored in warehouses.