On Wednesday, Jason Hayley started his morning with a conference call with the U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Services, the National Weather Service and more than two dozen other stakeholders up and down the Texas Gulf Coast.
Such a call typically takes place whenever weather disrupts incoming and outgoing shipments at the Port of Texas City and is set up so that various port personnel along the coast can lay out shipment and vessel priorities in case small windows of opportunities open up throughout the day to move them, said Hayley, vice president of operations at the port.
Over the past six days, the call had happened every morning because of the heavy fog that has blanketed the coast recently, Hayley said.
“I don’t recall having a stretch this long in the last couple years,” Hayley said. “This started on Friday night, and it’s been five days straight where we’ve had an impact to vessel movements.”
Impact to vessel movements — when a ship or barge is delayed or prevented from docking at the time it was scheduled to — have happened to 168 vessels that were supposed to dock or leave the port since Friday, Hayley said. That kind of delay can cause serious backlog in port operations, he said. As of Wednesday, the Port of Texas City was just finishing catching up, he said.
Meanwhile, only three ships have been affected at the Port of Galveston, Port of Galveston Harbormaster Brett Milutin said.
“The pilots did an excellent job of moving our priorities,” Milutin said, referring to the members of the Galveston-Texas City Pilot Association, whose job is to pilot tankers and barges into port during heavy fog.
Milutin chalked up the difference between the number of impacts at the Port of Galveston versus the Port of Texas City to the average traffic at each port. The Port of Galveston sees about 800 arrivals each year. The Port of Texas City has more than 5,000, Haley said.
“It’s a big difference,” Milutin said.
The fog is expected to continue through Thursday morning, until a cold front moves in this afternoon and blows it away, according to the National Weather Service in League City. But with another warm front expected early next week, fog isn’t completely out of the forecast.
“We have a front coming through tomorrow and once it passes that’ll be the end of the fog for a few days,” said Lance Wood, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “That’ll happen early afternoon tomorrow, but when you go into a warm month with water already cold, more fog is always a possibility.”