October 1, 2017
By now the damage from two deadly hurricanes has been assessed, and the states of Texas and Florida are cleaning up and rebuilding in the aftermath of the Harvey/Irma one-two punch.
The first storm to hit the US mainland, Harvey, made landfall the night of Friday, August 25th, as a Category 4 hurricane, when the eye of the storm came ashore near Corpus Christi, Texas. By 11:00 pm, sustained winds were reported at 102 mph, gusting to 132 mph.
Sunday evening, as much of the state of Texas was reeling from the force of the blow, the government of Mexico issued a press release taking the opportunity “…to express its full solidarity with the people and government of the United States for the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and to offer the US government all the help and cooperation that can be provided by the different Mexican government agencies to deal with the impacts of this natural disaster, as must good neighbors in times of difficulty.”
Ten days later, on September 7th, the southern coast of Mexico was struck by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake. At press time at least 96 people had died in the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century, and tremors were felt as far as 600 miles away in the capital of Mexico City.
The next day the country’s southern Gulf Coast was struck by category 1 hurricane Katia, bringing deadly mudslides and flooding.
In the wake of these natural disasters, Mexico reversed its decision to send aid to Texas. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement the country was no longer in a condition to provide aid after the earthquake and hurricane. All available aid in Mexico would now go to families and communities affected by the dual disasters, the Foreign Ministry said.
The offer of help from Mexico was appreciated, and will not be forgotten, but Mexico’s inability to follow through underlines the continuing need for national independence and self-sufficiency.
Fortunately, the people of Houston helped each other. They were aided by a fleet of pleasure craft available to be pressed into service in the event of an emergency. The boats were supplied by volunteers from the Cajun Navy, an organization of citizens who came together in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago. Last month they were there to help their neighbors, ferrying people to higher ground, rescuing stranded families and reuniting parents and children.
On the heels of Harvey, category 4 Hurricane Irma swept through the Florida Keys and touched down on Florida’s south coast on September 10th, delivering torrential rains and leaving devastation along much of the state’s Southwest shoreline. Ahead of the storm, whose path was unpredictable, ports throughout Florida had taken precautions and shuttered operations, following US Coast Guard protocol.
Another precaution taken was a Jones Act waiver. The state has no pipelines or refineries, and fuel distribution is accomplished with a fleet of Jones Act tankers servicing the gasoline and aviation fuel hubs of Tampa and Port Everglades.
In light of the anticipated need for emergency supplies of fuel, the Customs Border Protection (CBP) agency issued a one-week waiver of the Jones Act, allowing non-compliant tankers to participate in intra-US movements of petroleum products.
Part of the order says, “This waiver will ensure that over the next week, all options are available to distribute fuel to states and territories impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, both historic storms. The waiver will be in effect for seven days after signature and is specifically tailored to transportation of refined products in hurricane-affected areas.”
Any foreign-flagged tankers supplying fuel to storm-tossed South Florida are greatly appreciated, and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who lost loved ones or property in the three hurricanes and the devastating Mexico quake.
Fortunately the US has the self-reliance and resources to respond to natural disasters, including a robust shipbuilding industry and strong fleet, available to be pressed into service in the event of an emergency, comprised of 57 Jones Act product tankers with a combined 2.4 million gross tons of capacity and 141 Jones Act tank barges capable of carrying a combined 18 million barrels. Like the Cajun Navy, America’s Jones Act fleet is there to ensure that America will never be left stranded.
Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org