Vessel operators in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) who seek storm shelter at the Port of New Orleans were advised Tuesday by the U.S. Coast Guard that the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, the area of the Harvey Canal between the Lapalco Bridge and Algiers Alternate Route and the Algiers Canal will not be open as a safe haven during the 2009 hurricane season.

“Vessels that historically operate outside of the Port of New Orleans but travel to these areas seeking safe haven will no longer be permitted to enter these areas prior to the arrival of an approaching tropical system,” Coast Guard Sector New Orleans said in a marine safety information bulletin. “Operators of affected vessels should identify alternative safe haven sites as soon as possible to ensure the safety of their fleet.”

The Coast Guard said the restriction is necessary to protect “high-risk” areas in the New Orleans flood protection system from damage caused by drifting vessels.

Barges and ships that broke lose during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and during Hurricane Gustav in September 2008 damaged infrastructure and during Gustav threatened a gas pipeline.

The restriction will be in effect under “Port Condition Yankee,” when gale-force winds are predicted within the port in 24 hours, or under other hurricane or tropical storm conditions as determined by the captain of the Port of New Orleans, the Coast Guard said.

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