Coast Survey navigation response teams know the meaning of “rapid” in Rapid Maritime Response, as their ongoing response following Hurricane Isaac demonstrates.
As we explained in yesterday’s post (NOAA looks for dangers to navigation at Port Fourchon), getting a navigation response team (NRT) into the water at the port, to search for underwater debris and shoaling ‒ ASAP ‒ was Coast Survey’s highest priority. It was also a priority for port authorities, who know more than anyone how important it is to resume maritime operations quickly at “The Gulf’s Energy Connection.”
The 3-person survey team (team lead Nick Forfinski, with Luke Pavilonis and David McIntire), with navigation managers Tim Osborn and Alan Bunn, first had to move the boat (complete with state-of-the-art multibeam sonar and side scan sonar equipment) 163 miles from Lafayette to Port Fourchon. The team was the first group to drive down closed Highway 1, only preceded by a harbor police officer who wanted to make sure roads weren’t washed out. To travel the last segment of the storm-savaged highway, which was covered in places by nearly two feet of sideways-moving water, averting downed utility poles with hanging wires, the small Coast Survey caravan received a police escort by Port Fourchon Harbor Police.
As anyone who has ever driven through bad conditions can imagine, the team arrived at Port Fourchon tensed and tired. But that didn’t stop them. After consulting with port authorities, NRT4 launched their 28′ Sea Ark, put the side scan sonar in the water, switched on the multibeam, calibrated equipment, and started searching for dangers to navigation in the deserted waters around the docks. They also did a quick reconnaissance of Belle Pass (see NOAA chart 11346), where conditions were such that they weren’t able to continue operations. (They are returning to Belle Pass today.)
Port officials need the data ‒ quickly ‒ from the hydrographic surveys, so NRT4 survey technicians worked until the early morning hours, processing the depth measurements and images they acquired yesterday afternoon.
Today, NRT4 will intensify their search for underwater debris and shoaling, to make sure that ships and mariners can navigate safely ‒ without damage to lives, equipment, or the environment ‒ when ships start returning after the Coast Guard Captain of the Port lifts port restrictions.