The Port of Darwin is not a tropical cyclone haven. No vessels exceeding 200 gross tons are permitted to ride out a tropical cyclone in port.
Tropical cyclones in the Darwin area tend to be slow moving and quite variable in their heading. The evasion routes can also vary from running to the southwest to proceeding north around Melville Island or through the Clarence Strait. Sortie routes are discussed in paragraph 6.8.2.
When a Tropical Cyclone Warning is issued, all vessels exceeding 200 gross tons, whether alongside a wharf or at anchor, are directed to proceed to sea beyond the port limits and maneuver until the port is reopened by the Harbor Master. Vessels up to 200 gross tons must follow detailed procedures as outlined in the Darwin Port Authority Cyclone Procedures. During a Tropical Cyclone Warning, the vessel maximum length acceptable within the mooring basin is 114.8 ft (35 m).
The most notable feature of the port is the 25.9 ft (7.9 m) range of tides. The tides and currents need to be taken into consideration when entering or departing from the port to minimize their effects and to allow vessels with drafts greater than 36.1 ft (11 m) to proceed through the Middle Pass Channel.
It is the recommendation of this evaluation that all U.S. Navy ships sortie from the Port whenever Darwin is threatened by a tropical cyclone, and not wait to be ordered by the Port Authorities to put to sea. It should be noted that Tropical Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin in 1974. High seas, storm surge and winds damaged or wrecked 45 vessels in the harbor and demolished or badly damaged 90 % or the homes in Darwin City.
This hurricane haven evaluation was prepared by
R. G. Handlers and R. E. Englebretson of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Monterey, CA. and S. Brand of Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, CA.