In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Port Manatee resumes normal operations Sept. 12 pending authorization from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The port is a vital conduit of commerce as well as much needed fuel delivery to gas stations throughout Southwest Florida, many of which are opening today for the first time since Irma passed through.
“We’re open again since yesterday (Sept. 11) from the land side, so traffic in and out can come in and leave the port, and we are awaiting the clearance from the U.S. Coast Guard which we expect some time this afternoon,” said Executive Director of Port Manatee, Carlos Buqueras.
Like most other seaports along Florida’s coastline, Port Manatee shut down operations ahead of Irma’s arrival. Buqueras says storm preparation for a major seaport is much like storm prep people do to their homes, but on a much larger scale.
“...then as far as the ports, to secure down the ports so nothing flies around that shouldn’t be flying around. So as an example, the procedures would be that all containers should be down to a one or two height maximum and everything is tied down,” said Buqueras. “Cranes are moved and secured, buildings are shut and secured. You lock down. And you take away anything from the outside that has the propensity to fly and cause additional damage.”
Buqueras says ships that had been en route to Port Manatee ahead of Irma had to find safe harbor elsewhere outside of the storm’s path. During the storm, Port Manatee provided shelter for the staff of a European ferry operator that typically runs between Ft Lauderdale and Freeport in the Bahamas.
“They thought they were going to get away from that new cone of uncertainty on the east coast, and came right into the cone of uncertainty on the west coast,” said Buqueras.
The size of Hurricane Irma coupled with ever-changing projections on where the storm would hit impacted seaports on both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the Florida peninsula. Port Miami has also opened. The Jacksonville Port and Port Everglades remain closed as damage assessments are underway. Vessel traffic remains suspended at Port Tampa Bay, which experienced minor damage and flooding.