A deckhand prepares to secure a boat Friday at Port Fourchon. The port received minimal damage from Hurricane Isaac, the facility’s director says. Abby Tabor/Staff
Xerxes A. Wilson
PORT FOURCHON — Hurricane Isaac could have been worse at this hub for boats, rigs and manpower that serve most of the Gulf of Mexico’s oilfield.
The port shut down Monday as a mandatory evacuation was ordered in advance of the storm. Isaac dealt a direct hit to the port early Wednesday, but the facility reopened two days later, emerging with what officials describe as minor damage.
Electricity was still out Sunday, but Director Chett Chiasson said the docks, supply yards and other facilities buzzed with activity.
“Our biggest concern was the possibility of channel restrictions and damages to facilities where we would not be able to operate efficiently,” he said, “but that doesn’t seem to have happened.”
Getting the port running was key to allow Gulf oil production to continue, he said.
As Isaac hit, the Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimated that 509 of the 596 oil-production platforms and 50 of the 76 drilling rigs the Gulf had been evacuated. By Sunday, workers remain evacuated from 131 platforms, 22 percent, and 18 rigs, 23 percent. About 71 percent of Gulf oil production and 55 percent of natural-gas production remained halted Sunday.
Through the weekend, massive oceangoing vessels could be seen navigating the port’s channels as gulf oil production resumes.
The port serves as a staging area for half the drilling rigs in the Gulf and production of about 20 percent of the nation’s oil supply, Chiasson said. Supplies, equipment and rig infrastructure are typically brought into the port by truck along La. 1 then loaded onto towering vessels before being transported to the Gulf.
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