Port ready for forecasted Busy hurricane season

The Port of St. Maarten is ready for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. A meeting has already taken place to discuss the plan of action for this season. All stakeholders meet annually to prepare for the season in order to make sure that all necessary actions are taken to protect the Port, one of the pillars of the country’s economy.


All efforts are made by the harbour’s staff and stakeholders to keep the facility open as long as possible and to open back up as soon as possible. The St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies realize the importance of getting back to business as soon as possible, however, safety is always the primary principle that dictates the actions to be taken.

The port facility is an open harbor, and this means that the effects of waves are felt directly from the open sea. Unfortunately this is why sometimes operations are hampered even when a hurricane passes far away. The waves and swells affect ships trying to stay alongside the pier. The ships roll too much for the cranes to safely offload the cargo, and passengers cannot disembark and embark safely.

The dangers of damage to the ship and piers must also be taken into consideration. Operations must then wait for seas to subside to allow for the ships to berth safely. Ships have to deviate when a hurricane is in their path or route. The effects can be; cargoes being delayed and cruise ships going to other ports. Ships agents have their hands full as the cargo’s that are rerouted have to now also be rerouted at times or wait until the next round trip. On the other hand, a hurricane somewhere else may have ships coming to St. Maarten for an unplanned visit.

Depending on severity of a passing hurricane, waves and swell damages can be severe, as water will move earth.

A full assessment is made of the property as soon as weather permits. After the waves and swells subside, which can take some time; it is necessary to survey the seabed for possible debris that can damage a ships bottom or propellers. Underwater structures such as seawalls and pilings are checked for damages in the post-storm period.

The Port receives the input from shops, stevedoring companies, cargo shipping lines as well as the cruise lines, tour operators on land and sea, in preparation for a storm strike. Many man hours are required to prepare the harbour when a hurricane is on track to pass the island.

Depending on the expected winds, sometimes containers have to be moved and placed so as to avoid or try to minimize damage. The ports large mobile cranes have to be moved to a safe location. The crane booms are lowered so that there is the least effect of wind on them.

Properties must be secured such as signage taken down, awnings removed etc. All structures near the water have to be removed. Some of this equipment is large and cumbersome. Storage areas are designated to allow access and for all equipment to be able to be put back in place as soon as possible once the all clear-sign has been given by the Office of Disaster Management.