The Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans is keeping a watchful eye on the tropics, as Gustav swirls in the Caribbean.

“We are tracking the storm hourly and reporting to all employees regularly,” said Port President and CEO Gary P. LaGrange. “We have been in contact with all of our tenants and contractors and provided them with all relevant information and will follow up as more information is made available. The Port has detailed hurricane preparation and recovery plans in place, which can be activated at a moment’s notice. We are prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best.”

Navigation on the Mississippi River remains unrestricted and the port continues to work cargo while preparing for the possibility of Gustav’s arrival. The Port is currently in what is called “Storm Center Phase I,” which is activated on June 1, the annual start of Hurricane Season. As Gustav approaches the Gulf, the Port is preparing all of the supplies and personnel that it will need to weather a storm.

The Port’s operations department personnel have toured Port tenant’s operations to ensure preparations are in place. Cargo activities are expected to continue until such time as the Coast Guard restricts vessel movements on the Lower Mississippi River.

“It is too premature to tell where Gustav may make landfall and what effects it may have,” LaGrange said. “We want to assure our customers though that we are ready to restart our operations safely and quickly, just as we did after Hurricane Katrina, if the storm comes our way.”

Due to its inland location and the Mississippi River bank’s high elevation, the Port of New Orleans was able to reopen just a week after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and worked its first cargo ship 12 days after landfall.

All Port fuel tanks were topped off and Harbor Police personnel placed on standby with orders to remain in contact with HPD headquarters. In addition, a dozen hotel rooms were booked in Shreveport, La., so the Port can staff a satellite office from the Port of Shreveport-Bossier in the event of a prolonged closure of its headquarters. Back office functions, such as accounting, personnel and management information systems, will be relocated to the satellite office if it looks like Port headquarters will be closed for longer than five days. Alternate area code mobile phones with emergency contact lists have been distributed to key personnel and all of the Port’s floating equipment, such as pile-driving barges and dredges will be secured by Friday evening.

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Customers trying to reach terminal operators should call the following numbers:

Ceres Gulf                               504-717-3071
Coastal Cargo                         504-587-1200
Empire Stevedoring                504-452-7957 or 504-554-3684
New Orleans Cold Storage     504-214-4567 or 800-755-8775
Pacorini Global                       504-382-3359 or 504-416-6504 or 904-219-3482
Ports America                         888-309-1245- (information hotline)