Hurricane season officially begins on June 1, but there usually isn’t too much action early on. The main threat in June and July are those pop-up hurricanes that seemingly materialize out of nowhere in the Bay of Campeche or the western Gulf of Mexico.
As veteran offshore service vessel mariners know, there is often little time available to take evasive action, so extra vigilance is required at the start of the season. Classic mid- to late-season Atlantic tropical cyclones can be tracked from a long way off, which permits more time to plan. However, it also means the storms have more time to strengthen. So pick your poison.
You don’t want to get caught off guard. Captains and mates, as well as barge crews, should dust off their company operations manuals and review hurricane plans. Port captains and other company safety personnel should also review the plans and make sure that they’re practical for vessel crews to follow. That means that the plans need to contain instructions and procedures that are clear, relevant and useful in times of crisis and confusion. Plans should not contain procedures that will only add to the perplexity and anxiety.
In addition, major commercial harbors usually have a location-specific hurricane plan written by Coast Guard captains of the port. So read it and heed it, and make sure there is no conflict between the two plans. Rest assured, COTPs will have the final say when it comes to vessel movements and the use of anchorages when a storm is on its final approach.