Hurricane Irma’s potential effect on U.S. Ports in the Southeast

Hurricane Irma’s potential effect on U.S. ports in the Southeast.

On the heels of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and disruption of the Gulf Coast and its supply chains, another stronger and larger threat is expected to create major delays and damage to cargo and ports in the U.S. Southeast.

Hurricane Irma, recently downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane, is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2005. This “potentially catastrophic” storm has already ravaged the Caribbean Islands and is setting its sights on the sunshine state. A heavy hit on Florida and the Southeast would test the flexibility of port supply chains as well as strain the already stressed truck and rail networks.

As of Wednesday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard has set a port condition Whiskey for all ports in South Florida, including Port Miami, Port Everglades Port of Palm Beach and Port of Ft. Pierce. And as of Wednesday night, a port condition Whiskey was set for the Port of Jacksonville and Fernandina and all other terminals and facilities. This condition was set because of the expectation of sustained gale force winds of 25 mph and gusts up to 40 mph generated by Hurricane Irma that may arrive within 72 hours.

Port staff in South Florida will be conducting surveys in anticipation of more severe port declarations. If and when the next level is declared, a port condition Yankee – meaning vessel movement will be restricted due to sustained gale force winds that are expected within 24 hours and all movements must be approved by the captain of the port.

In the meantime, the Coast Guard warns to stay off the water, secure all belongings and evacuate as necessary.

Some major U.S. energy companies that also stand to be affected that operate terminals or pipelines in Port Everglades, one of the largest storage hubs in Florida, include Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Marathon Petroleum Corp., among others. Other major storage hubs include Tampa and Jacksonville.

In a recent interview with JOC.com, the Jacksonville, Florida based CSX Transportation spokesman said that they are taking precautionary measures to protect rail traffic and infrastructure from potential risks from the storm “…at this time it is not known the level of impact the hurricane will have on CSX operations, but its path and intensity are being closely monitored…”.

Whatever Hurricane Irma has in store for Florida will unfold over the next few days. Doolittle & Tucker, P.A. extend their good wishes for safety and security to all those in Hurricane Irma’s path.