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02 April 2006 08:52

US Gulf Claims Clear Up

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita with strong hurricane force winds and massive storm surges hit the U.S. Gulf Coast with a vengeance, severely damaging cargoes at port facilities/terminals and warehouses along most of the Gulf Coast as far east as Mobile, Alabama, and west as Beaumont, Texas. New Orleans was hit almost head-on by Katrina a nd side swiped by Rita with the result that most of the city and outlying area flooded with floodwaters reaching a maximum depth of 20' in some areas. This flooding was caused by storm surge and levee overtoppings/breaches occurring during and after the storms. Flooding occurred on August 29th when Katrina hit and with additional flooding occurring when Rita hit on September 24th when a weakened levee system from the previous storm gave way. The city and surrounding area remained flooded and was not pumped dry until October 3, 2005.

Our staff of surveyors from our various offices as well as assistance from outside surveyors worked constantly on a 24/7 basis surveying various types of containerized, general, frozen and bulk cargoes as well as river barges and brown water/blue water vessel sustaining damages caused by Katrina and Rita's hurricane force winds a nd massive storm surges. Immediately after Katrina, the surveyors variously lived in hire cars and in abandoned hotels for several days, until they eventually secured an operational hotel room in a motel near Mobile. At one s tage, three surveyors lived and worked out of one hotel room until they could move on.

The MMK office in New Orleans was only partially flooded; the city was in disarray and partly deserted. The local surveyors set up in the office and slept there when they couldn't get home. Communications were extremely difficult with only mobile phones as the predominant means of contact. In most cases there was no way of contacting assured parties and claimants with damaged goods and equipment. The only way to get a survey underway was to go to the survey location or identified claimant's address , speak to whoever could be found, and find out what was going on. Travelling was also a challenge with many areas and roads impassable or subject to restricted access.

Literally hundreds of surveyors and adjusters were in hotels around the area trying to get access to the C ity but without accommodation there was no way they could get a pass to access the City or separate passes to access the many restricted areas (including ports and terminals). Surveyors had to deal with the logistical c hallenges and the emotional ones. In many cases, claimants and other interested parties were understandably distracted by the many prevailing circumstances that existed at that time including loss or displacement of family or homes and severe disruption to business trading.

Surveys involved inspecting cargoes at Gulf Coast terminals/port facilities, container depots/marshalling areas, commodity/cold storage warehouses along the Coast in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas having sustained damages attributable to Katrina/Rita. Damages to both marine facilities and various type bulk/break bulk cargoes, container cargoes and refineries were in most instances extensive mainly due to the massive storm surge generated by these major hurricanes and to lesser extent the hurricane force winds. Port terminals/docks, container depot/marshalling areas, warehouses, cold storage facilities, refineries along almost the entire Gulf region e xperienced the wrath of these major hurricanes. The New Orleans Port's wharves located on high ground along the river levees/banks did not flood, but did sustain structural damages from the hurricane force winds, allowing wind-driven rain to enter through the breached wharf sheds with resultant wetting of the various cargoes stored inside. The Maersk/Sealand Container Terminal as well as other terminals, docks, warehouses and container marshalling a reas on the Industrial Canal and surrounding low lying areas did not fare nearly as well in that they all had flooded due to levee overtoppings/breaches that had occurred in the area. New Orleans has an abundance of coffee and plywood warehouses, most of which flooded and sustained structural damages from hurricane force winds and tornados that were spawned. Bagged coffee, crates plywood/lumber stored in these warehouses suffered heavy damages and loss.

Over the past 6 months our company has handled a large volume of cargo losses due mostly to Hurricane Katrina (August 29) and some due to Hurricane Rita (September 24). While it is not possible to list all of these losses, s ome of the largest and most interesting are listed below:

  • Coffee warehouses in New Orleans suffered flooding and wind-driven rain damages with losses estimated at $10 million.
  • Plywood/lumber warehouses in New Orleans suffered similar flooding and wind-driven rain damages with losses estimated at around $3-$5 million.
  • · Cold storage houses stocked with frozen chicken and seafood products in New Orleans and Pascagoula, Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi, suffered power outages and flooding with product having to be destroyed and with losses estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • · Warehouses in New Orleans stocked with various commodities, machinery and steel products had flooded and had sustained structural damages allowing rain entry with resultant losses estimated in the millions.
  • · State of Louisiana vessels, i.e. ferries, landing barges, work barges, tugboats, etc., in various locations throughout the state sustained extensive Hurricane Katrina and Rita damages resulting in sinkings, groundings with loss estimated in the $3.5-$4.5 million range.
  • · Port Bienville, Mississippi, had many inbound container loads of various commodities, i.e. lumber, machinery, apparel, etc., on the docks awaiting delivery when Hurricane Katrina hit. All of these containers and their contents suffered storm surge damages with losses in the millions. One containerized shipment in particular loaded with clothing suffered flooding damage and had to be destroyed with loss estimated at $6 million.
  • · The Port of Gulfport, Mississippi's numerous container depots/marshalling areas on the Gulf shore line received the brunt of Hurricane Katrina's 20-25' storm surge whereby hundreds of containers were driven inland coming to rest outside the port area on roads/highways and on business/residential properties all along the Gulf Coast. As well, containers were seen floating or partially sunken in the Gulf carried away by the receding floodwaters of the storm. Heavy losses were sustained by the commodities carried in the containers, most of which were unrecoverable or lost. Losses are estimated in the hundreds of millions.
  • · The Port of Pascagoula East and Westbank Terminals sustained heavy damage by Hurricane Katrina storm surge with shipments of various tyre manufacturers' crude rubber sustaining severe damage by floodwaters passing through the terminal sheds and with some of the rubber washed out to sea. Loss estimated at $5 million.
  • · Palletized paper bags of powdered milk valued at $2.5 million stored in a pier shed in Gulfport, Mississippi, was carried away by the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina and never was found.
  • · Lumber cargoes on the dock and in warehouses in Mobile, Alabama, Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi, sustained storm surge damages from Hurricane Katrina with losses estimated in the millions.
  • · Bundles of ingots stored on the open dock in Gulfport, Mississippi, were exposed to flooding and with bundles going adrift. Loss estimated at one-quarter of a million dollars.
  • · An offshore semi-submersible accommodations rig tore away from its ship repair yard moorings during Hurricane Katrina taking out sections of the Alabama State Dock and various other docks while driven by the winds on Mobile River until striking and becoming wedged underneath the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge. Loss estimation applying to this rig and structures/bridge it struck is estimated in tens of millions of Dollars.

The above only represents a number of the many files opened by our offices to handle losses resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Best regards,
Henry N. Feste
Manager/Senior Surveyor
MMK International Marine Services Inc.
2626 N. Arnoult Road, Suite 115
Metairie, LA 70002
504-454-2678 - phone
504-454-2796 - fax
504-908-5177 - cell

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