How bad has this summer been at the Port of New York and New Jersey? So bad that some truckers are comparing its impact with Hurricane Sandy.
There’s been no physical damage to compare with last year’s hurricane, but container terminals’ recent operating delays have taken a severe financial toll on shippers, carriers, terminals, truckers and others.
Since early June, the East Coast’s busiest port has had more bad days than good ones. The turmoil began more than a month ago when Maher Terminals endured a rocky launch of its new Navis N4 terminal operating system. Intermittent gate shutdowns caused miles-long lines of trucks.
Delays spread quickly as Maher diverted ships to other port terminals. The volume spike at other terminals coincided with annual vacation season shortages of longshore labor, and with the major construction and opening of a new gate system at Global Terminals.
Shippers’ delivery schedules have been thrown off-kilter just as the import peak season is starting to pick up steam. Terminals have incurred extra costs for longshoremen’s overtime and extended gate hours. Carriers also have felt the impact.
Port truckers have caught the worst of it. They’re struggling with lost productivity, extra charges for chassis rental and per-diem payments on containers, and unhappy customers.
Drayage companies say they’ve had to provide extra pay to drivers to offset drivers’ increased waiting time and decreased turns. This summer’s losses threaten to ruin some owner-operators that have monthly loan obligations on their trucks.
The most severe damage may be to the New York-New Jersey port’s reputation. For cargo interests, recent events are another reminder of how little it takes for things to go haywire at the port. Don’t think shippers haven’t noticed.
Until this summer, the port had enjoyed a series of positive changes — dredging of 50-foot channels, approval to raise the Bayonne Bridge, multibillion-dollar improvements that have transformed the face of the port, and a new International Longshoremen’s Association contract that offers the promise of more competitive labor costs.
Despite its damage and disruption, even Hurricane Sandy ended up as a remarkable success story. After the storm, the port’s disparate elements pulled together for an amazingly quick recovery.
New York-New Jersey needs some more of that now.