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Container Ports Shutter as Hurricane Dorian Threatens Southeast Coast

As Hurricane Dorian churned just offshore of Florida on Tuesday, several key retail container cargo ports that lay in its path have either closed or plan to in coming days as the storm makes its way up the Southeast Coast.

In Florida, Port Miami and Port Everglades closed to all vessel traffic until further notice from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Further up the coast, the Port of Jacksonville posted on its web site: “Hurricane Port Condition ZULU is now in effect. Jaxport’s terminals remain closed to all commercial traffic for the duration of Hurricane Dorian and until cleared to reopen by the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector Jacksonville.”

Under Port Condition ZULU, all commercial vessels over 500 gross tons are prohibited from entering or remaining in port. Additionally, all ship-to-shore cargo operations must cease six hours prior to the setting of ZULU.

The port’s administrative offices and facilities were to close Tuesday and Wednesday, in alignment with the City of Jacksonville’s office closures.

Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, which produces the Global Port Tracker for the National Retail Federation, said the Floridian ports are facing longer closures, so far slated for three days.

“In these cases, it is possible that some cargo will be diverted to other ports or a rotation will be adjusted and the ports will be visited in a different sequence to normal,” Hackett said. “Such diversions can be complex for shippers, and can result in additional costs and delays, while resequencing can lead to delays in the handling of a vessel depending on the stowage layout of containers. For now, though, I think delayed arrivals are more likely than redirects.”

As the path of the major hurricane was expected to hug the coast accompanied by powerful winds and torrential rain, the ports of Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., have announced two-day closures for Wednesday and Thursday.

“The impact from these short-term closures are typically minimal,” Hackett said. “Ports develop plans to deal with weather events to build resiliency and limit the impact, and improve the speed of the recovery and return to normal operations. Short closures like this typically result in a delayed vessel arrival attained via slower steaming of anchoring off shore. Given the closure is at the beginning of the month, [they]…should not have major repercussions for shippers.”

If the hurricane continues its anticipated offshore tracking along the coast rather than making landfall, Hackett said, it should spare the ports from damage that would result in delayed re-openings.