US logistics disrupted by Hurricane Ida

Source: Lloyd’s Loading List
Date: 6th September 2021

Businesses and logistics chains in eastern United States (US) are recovering from the effects of last week’s Hurricane Ida, with disruptions expected to many supply chains.

After Ida made landfall in Louisiana on 29 August as the second-most damaging hurricane to strike the southern US state, Ida weakened steadily over land, but still caused widespread heavy infrastructural damage throughout the southeastern portion of the state, as well as extremely heavy flooding in coastal areas. And the remnants of the storm produced a destructive tornado outbreak and catastrophic flash flooding in the Northeastern United States on 1 September, prompting the shutdown of some transport infrastructure.

As of today, the state of New Jersey reported that “all 21 counties remain under a State of Emergency in response to Tropical Storm Ida”.

New Orleans port closures
The Port of New Orleans halted container terminal operations last Monday, as Hurricane Ida lashed the Louisiana coast with torrential rain and heavy winds. And in a Storm Update yesterday, Port of New Orleans said Port NOLA had resumed limited cargo and vessel operations, beginning with breakbulk vessel cargo, from 2 September, “just four days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in southeast Louisiana as a category 4 storm”.

But it said container operations remained closed and “will resume at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal Tuesday, 7 September”, adding: “Port crews, terminal operators and tenants continue to prepare facilities for the resumption of operations more broadly.”

On the operations of the port’s two container terminals, it said New Orleans Terminal operations are currently closed “and will resume operations with limited gate and terminal operations on Tuesday, September 7. Ports America operations are currently CLOSED, and will reopen with limited gate and terminal operations on Tuesday, September 7.”

In a customer advisory last Friday, it mentioned that operations in Louisiana and Mississippi were recently impacted by Hurricane Ida, with power outages and flooding “the primary issues at play, which have heavily impacted the US Northeast as well”.

It said Federal Hours of Service for relief related loads had been amended, and elevated fuel and transportation pricing was expected, adding: “Congestion outside the states listed above is likely as loads are moved via different lanes to avoid storm affected areas.”

Infrastructure impacts
It said major power outages continue to exist in Southern and Northeast states, highlighting “infrastructure challenges such as access to fuel as relief efforts continue and road closures. While we are seeing flood improvements on main highways in Louisiana and Mississippi, states in the Northeast, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, are experiencing dangerous flooding which has shut down many roadways.”

LTL limited operations
It is highlighted that less than truckload (LTL) operations “are extremely limited for carriers servicing the Northeast due to road closures and flooding in the area, an impact from Central Pennsylvania through Long Island, NY and into New England”.

It said Louisiana and Mississippi LTL terminals remained “operationally limited”, with closures focused in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Gulfport. It added that some providers had placed restrictions on Louisiana bound freight until terminal operations can be restored.

Rail closures
As of last Friday, it reported that Norfolk Southern (NS) New Orleans Intermodal Terminal remained closed. NS Northeast terminals, including Croxton, Erail, and Morrisville, are not accepting new loads, but remained open for carriers or customers to pick up loaded units.

It said Canadian National (CN) had lifted an embargo for traffic interchanging at Jackson and Mobile, although the embargo remained in effect for New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and all CN traffic destined for Louisiana. “They have experienced a power outage in New Orleans and a number of trees have also fallen on tracks, leading to anticipated delays.”

“Other railroads moving traffic into/out of or through storm impacted areas are in the process of restoring service to normal operations,” it added. “They do anticipate transit delays to continue as they work through the backlog of freight on their networks.”

Ports reopening
As of last Friday, Port Newark Container Terminal was open, while Maher Terminals and the Maher Empty Depot was closed but was expected to resume operations from 3 September.

The New Orleans Terminal for containerized operations remains closed, as do Empire, Coastal Cargo, and Gulf Stream Marine. They have not released a timeline of when they will reopen.

US logistics expert of American Public University highlighted several expected supply chain implications in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, indicating that some of the knock-on effects were likely to last months.

“The impact of Hurricane Ida in the New Orleans and Louisiana area directly impact the surface transportation from that region to the rest of the U.S., even toward the West coast,” he noted. “Railroad transportation has been halted or delayed. This means supply items that come into the ports in that area will be delayed, by months. And the holiday season of Christmas is impacted.”

Delays plus increased costs
He said the impact would be “delays plus increased costs”, noting: “Customers of any retail store should expect delays in supplies arriving in their store not only from that area of Hurricane Ida, but across the US. And expect to pay more for each item from groceries to shoes.

“From the past, it is expected that costs per item will increase by 10 to 20 percent. Given the nature of the current pandemic on top of the impact from Hurricane Ida, expect these cost increases to continue through 2022.”

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