St. John ferries were idling in Cruz Bay Creek on Friday, Aug. 28, waiting for the U.S. Coast Guard to reopen the port.
ST. JOHN — A few residents of St. John blithely went about their morning routines in eerily quiet Cruz Bay Friday morning, Aug. 28, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erica totally unawares of the fact they were violating a curfew declared by V.I. Gov. Kenneth Mapp late the previous evening.
The curfew was subsequently lifted in the middle of the day and the U.S. Coast Guard reopened all the ports in USVI at 12:30 p.m. Friday and ferry service was restored following the officially-declared passing of Tropical Storm Erika to end several days of confusion and unintended civil disobedience.
The U.S. Coast Guard had set Port Condition ZULU at midnight Wednesday, Aug. 26, for all the ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands and 2 a.m. Thursday for the eastern and northern ports of Puerto Rico due to the passing of Tropical Storm Erika.
Ports under Port Condition ZULU officially suspend operations and are closed to all inbound and outbound vessel traffic until otherwise directed by the Coast Guard Captain of the Port, according to the USCG announcement.
The USCG opened the ports in U.S. Virgin Islands at 12:30 p.m. Friday following the passing of Tropical Storm Erika.
“Port facilities in Saint John, Saint Thomas and Saint Croix may resume normal operations, including waterfront facility and vessel transits, subject to prudent seamanship and safe working practices,” USCG officials announced.
“Following the passing of Tropical Storm Erika through the area, Coast Guard teams were scheduled to conduct port assessments prior to reopening any ports closed under Port Condition ZULU and returning to normal port operations,” according to the release.
Circumventing Port Closure
Breofe the USCG could act, an ad hoc St. John community effort to circumvent the port closure by transporting stranded visitors to St. Thomas on private vessels to catch flights which still were scheduled to depart ran afoul of the port embargo and was brought to an official halt, according to one caller to St. John Tradewinds.
“Everything was working fine until the Coast Guard shut us down,” the anonymous caller said.
“They were loading people onto one small boat right at the dock while I was selling tickets for the first ferry after the storm,” one ferry company employee told St. John Tradewinds.
One long-time resident with USCG credentials acknowledged the confusion — and the tried and true solution employed by another resident St. John mariner to catch an early morning flight as the tropical storm approached.
“They left St. John Wednesday and stayed on St. Thomas,” she reported.