Cargo operations at the Port of New York and New Jersey are “back to full speed” as terminals work through backlogs from a nearly week-long shutdown after Hurricane Sandy, the port’s top executive said.
“Customers should have no hesitancy in bringing cargo here or moving it out of here,” said Rick Larrabee, director of the port authority’s port commerce department. “I would say we’re at full operations now.”
Truck lines remained long today outside Maher Terminals, where technical glitches and high volume also produced lengthy delays Tuesday. Port terminals were open on Election Day, normally a longshore work holiday, and plan to stay open Monday on Veterans’ Day.
Container terminals began reopening Nov. 4, a week after the hurricane battered the port with a storm surge that swamped much of the port with up to four feet of salt water. “It covered areas that had never seen water before,” Larrabee said.
The surge washed containers off the docks, floated containers, ruined trucks and other vehicles and fouled electrical systems of cranes and yard equipment. The port authority’s Port Newark office was flooded with 3 ½ feet of water.
Some of worst damage was to new vehicles, thousands of which suffered water damage at Toyota and FAPS auto processing facilities. No damage was reported to vehicles at BMW’s auto import facility.
Approxmately 16,000 vehicles were stored at the port, the nation’s largest auto import gateway, when the storm hit, Larrabee said.
No portwide damage estimates are available. In addition to physical damage, many port companies suffered interruptions to business, and surveyors are still tallying damages to cargo in containers and at ground-level warehouses.
The delay in reopening marine terminals was mainly because of electrical outages, which were widespread in the New York-New Jersey region.
Initially, truck traffic at terminals was limited to daytime hours by the lack of power for terminal lighting and roadway traffic signals. Those restrictions were lifted today.
Power has been restored through the port area except for some tenants at the northern end of Port Newark, Larrabee said.
“The port is coming back up very quickly,” Larrabee said. “From my perspective, it was a pretty miraculous recovery. If you were to drive through the port today, you would have a hard time finding real evidence of the destruction we saw.”
The main exception: a deck barge, normally used to shuttle containers between Port Newark and the Red Hook terminal in Brooklyn, that was sitting partially atop Berth 4 at Newark. Salvage crews began work today to lift the barge from the dock.
Things remain far from perfect, Larrabee acknowledged. Data is still being refreshed after a nearly weeklong shutdown. Many port truckers suffered damage to their equipment and are scrambling to get back into gear. “It’s going to take a while to get things completely right away,” Larrabee said.
Several carriers diverted cargo to other ports, mostly Virginia. Some of that cargo is being rerouted to New York-New Jersey by barge, rail or truck. Shippers are complaining that carriers are exercising bill-of-lading provisions that require cargo interests to pay the added costs.
Jeff Bader, president of port trucker Golden Carriers and of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, said drivers are still contending with delays but the situation is improving.
Bader praised the port authority for its response to the storm and shutdown. “I tip my hat to them. They were communicative and responsive to our needs,” he said. “They did a great job.”