The following is the text of a press release issued Sunday by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(NATCHEZ, Miss.) — In anticipation of heavy weather caused by Hurricane Gustav, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans will set Port Condition Zulu for all waterways throughout Southeast Louisiana effective 4:00 p.m. today.
This condition, prescribed in the Maritime Hurricane Contingency Port Plan, is set when gale force winds are predicted to arrive at the Mississippi River’s Southwest Pass entrance within 12 hours.
When Port Condition Zulu goes into effect, a temporary safety zone is established, which closes all navigable waterways in the area, to include: the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway from mile marker 20 west of the Harvey Locks to mile marker 44, east of the Harvey Locks; the Lower Mississippi River from the Southwest Pass sea buoy to mile marker 303; both the Port of New Orleans and the Port of Baton Rouge. The closure prohibits all commercial vessel transits and cargo operations, with the exception of vessels that have already been approved by the Coast Guard to transit the area.
Masters of ocean going vessels of more than 500 gross tons and all ocean going barges and their supporting tugs have been required to report their intentions to depart or remain in port to the Coast Guard since Friday.
Crews of vessels remaining in port must complete a safety checklist and submit it to the Coast Guard for approval. The Coast Guard has strongly urged that crews of vessels that have remained in port take precautionary measures, such as:
Securing loose gear and hazardous materials.
Doubling mooring lines.
Ensuring that a sufficient crew is onboard to tend mooring lines and/or get underway.
Ensuring that firefighting equipment is ready for use.
Appropriate anchors are set for moored and anchored vessels.
All waterways in the region will be evaluated for safety upon passing of the storm. Coast Guard command and control functions for units throughout Southeast Louisiana have shifted here to maintain a continuity of operations while directing assets that are pre-positioning in safe areas to prepare for post-storm operations.