Several Southeast seaports that shut down ahead of Hurricane Irma say they will be able to reopen in the next 48 hours, allowing badly needed shipments of fuel, food and other goods to make their way into the region.
Half-dozen major ports, including facilities in Tampa, Miami, and Savannah, suspended operations over the weekend. Combined, they handle one in six containers entering or leaving North America, as well as tankers loaded with gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Officials were still assessing damage on Monday but reported few issues, aside from minor flooding in some areas. Tampa’s sprawling port, which mainly handles bulk cargo like cars and fuel, was cleared to reopen Tuesday afternoon. The port at Charleston, S.C., which said it was suspending operations Monday afternoon as a weakened Irma barreled north, expects to reopen Tuesday.
Savannah’s port, by far the region’s busiest, may reopen as early as Tuesday night or (Today) Wednesday morning, pending the U.S. Coast Guard’s assessment of the Savannah River’s ship channel. On Tuesday morning, staff and Longshore crews will work to bring back equipment that had been moved to higher ground, unstrap containers and until cranes in preparation for ship arrivals.
“We plan to hit the ground running tomorrow morning,” Georgia Ports Executive Director Griff Lynch said Monday.
Mr. Lynch said the port facilities sustained no major damage or flooding, despite very high water levels and winds that reached up to 60 miles an hour. There are currently about 10 ships queued up to the northeast of Savannah, waiting out the storm, he said. As soon as port officials get permission from the Coast Guard, they will start allowing ships in to unload and load cargo, Mr. Lynch said, adding that the port can handle about eight or nine ships at a time.
In Tampa, the only large Gulf Coast port in the path of the storm, officials said damage and flooding were minor, and the port expected to reopen fully Tuesday afternoon. Four petroleum-carrying vessels were waiting to bring much-needed fuel into the port as soon as it reopened, port officials said. Amid reports of fuel shortages across the state, diesel prices in Florida have gone up 7 cents a gallon over the past week, according to AAA.
Port Everglades, just north of Miami, said petroleum companies based there estimated they had a four-day supply of gasoline on hand, five days worth of diesel fuel and five days of jet fuel, adding that several fuel ships were at anchor, waiting for the port to reopen. On Friday, U.S. officials issued a rare one-week waiver of the Jones Act, which prohibits foreign ships from operating in domestic sea routes, allowing foreign tankers to distribute fuel to hurricane-stricken areas.
The storm disrupted operations for days, delaying the equivalent of 10,000 20-foot shipping containers, according to trade research firm Panjiva. The industries most reliant on the disrupted Southeast ports include chemicals, auto parts, lumber and other building materials, according to Panjiva. In the coming weeks, any shortage of lumber and building materials “will be keenly felt across the region as the reconstruction process begins,” Panjiva analysts wrote in a note Monday.
Source:- Wall Street Journal