TAMPA, Fla. – The Coast Guard is closing the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Manatee ports ahead of Hurricane Irma.
The ports are closed to all inbound and outbound traffic. No vessel are allowed to enter, depart or transit within this safety zone without the permission of the Captain of the Port (COTP).
All cargo and bunker handling operations must cease at this time. A safety zone has been established prohibiting vessel movement and activities unless specifically authorized by the COTP. All commercial vessels and barges who have received permission from the COTP to remain in port must be at their mooring site in accordance with their plan.Vessels bound for this port are advised to seek an alternate destination.
Mariners are also advised that drawbridges will remain closed when wind speeds are 34 knots or greater. Due to uncertainty of weather movements and related bridge closures, mariners are urged to seek passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of gale force winds.
Coast Guard Stations Yankeetown, Sand Key, St. Petersburg, Cortez and Fort Myers Beach, have secured operations in anticipation of the storm. The Coast Guard strongly urges all boaters to stay off the water.
Drawbridges will be closed and locked in the down position within eight hours prior to the arrival of gale-force winds.
A bridge closure means the bridge will remain in the down position unless there is an emergency situation, such as a vessel removing hazardous cargo away from an area a storm is anticipated to affect.
Once a bridge is locked, it will not be opened until bridge crews are able to return after the storm passes. Crews may not be able to immediately return to a bridge or may not be able to re-open it depending on available access to the bridge, damage to the area and power outages.
Hurricane Irma is a large and powerful storm. All marine interests must take early and substantial action to ensure safety of the port and vessels. Future port conditions cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty, but provided the storm remains on the projected course and track, port stakeholders can expect sustained Gale Force winds from a hurricane force storm within 12 hours.