The devastating arrival of Hurricane Sandy on the US East Coast this week led to the closure of a number of major East Coast ports handling vehicle and container shipments, as well as the closure of road and rail routes inland and disruption to the dealer network.

The storm, which has beeen reclassified a post-tropical cyclone since hitting the US mainland on Monday night, has claimed more than 100 lives, including those in the Caribbean through which it passed last week, and large areas of mid-Atlantic coast, including Long Island Sound, New Jersey and lower Manhattan, are still underwater because of surge floods.

Since midnight on Sunday all terminals at the port of New York and New Jersey have been on complete shutdown until further notice (and remained so on Friday). It is reported to have sustained damage to its infrastructure and rail track and remains without power. At the port of Baltimore there ships were prevented from docking at the public marine terminals following a decision by the US Coast Guard to close off the access channels leading into the port on Sunday. The ports of Wilmington was also closed on Monday and the ports of Davisville and Philadelphia were also affected but have since reopened.

Davisville’s director, Evan H Matthews, said the port had closed on Monday and all cargo had been removed inland from the piers but reopened on Tuesday morning. “The Port of Davisville weathered the storm with no damage, and is now open to receive vessels,” said Evans, adding that no losses had been reported.
The storm passed by the port of Charleston in South Carolina over the weekend with little impact. A spokesperson for the South Carolina ports authority said that only a handful of vessels remained at dock while the storm passed off the coast and there were no other operational impacts reported so far. Based on the storm’s path, very minimal weather impacts to the South Carolina coast as Sandy passed this weekend.

Likewise, further south, the port of Jacksonville escaped the direct impact of the storm, with not much felt other than some high seas and wind advisories according to a spokesperson.

Delays to rail
Rail providers, meanwhile, have been implementing emergency measures in the face of the storm. Norfolk Southern said traffic between Virginia through to New England could be affected by heavy rains, flooding and high winds. “Rail traffic in these areas should expect delays of at least 72 hours,” said the company in a statement.

A spokesman told Automotive Logistics News on Monday that while he could not comment on specific commodities, safety was “front and centre” and that the company was looking out for Norfolk Southern personnel, contractors, customers and the public.

“We’ve made extensive preparations ahead of the storm’s arrival, moving crews, contractors and material like ballast into place should the storm impact our rail network,” said the spokesperson. “We’ve also been communicating with our customers since before Hurricane Sandy’s arrival and will stay in contact so we best serve their needs.”

CSX also closed its network between Richmond, Vancouver and Albany, New York on Monday.

According to Bill Kerrigan, director at KGI Global Logistics Consulting, the biggest problem for both rail and truck is the prospect of streams washing away rail track and roads. Kerrigan confirmed that all major rail and freeways in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were closed and would probably not reopen until later in the week assuming there was no structural damage.

“Even with widespread power outages, normal logistics services should resume by Thursday,” said Kerrigan.

Manufacturing monitored
Carmakers and suppliers are also likely to be affected, with a number of parts manufacturing operations and tier supplier facilities in the affected area and subject to coastal and lake flood warnings as well as winter storm alerts.

Ford said that it was not expecting any impact to production because of supply difficulties but was continuing to monitor the situation with its suppliers. GM said on Tuesday that it too was continuing to monitor the impact of the storm on its manufacturing operations.  “At this point, we're not seeing significant delays in our supply base deliveries, said a spokesman for the company. “GM Baltimore Operations cancelled production for today and are on track to resume [Wednesday].”

GM reported that it was continuing to assess the impact on its dealer network in storm-affected areas. The carmaker said it expected the event to affect sales in the Northeast US, but said its primary concern was for the safety of its dealers, their employees and customers there.

Dealerships have been forced to close and many have sought higher land on which to store vehicles to protect them from flooding.