Hurricane Ida’s Catastrophic Impact on the Shipping Industry

2021 hasn’t been short of catastrophes for the shipping industry at large – both locally and internationally. In addition to all the port congestion caused by economic circumstances, increased demand, and decreased product availability, recent extreme weather conditions are putting undue pressure on southern ports and carriers.

Over the weekend, hurricane Ida made contact with land along the coast of Louisiana causing major damages. Winds hit speeds of over 150 mph, and the hurricane was registered as a Category 4 hurricane.

The hurricane also happened to knock over power lines and drench power plants, taking out the electricity in the city and surrounding areas. This left the city relying predominantly on generators for power.

While officials acted immediately to get businesses and people the help they needed through relief efforts, the damage to infrastructure is expected to last for a long time. Previous hurricanes have put ocean ports out of commission for 1-2 weeks, and the same can be expected in this instance.

Although official and conclusive news regarding damage to ocean ports hasn’t yet been reported, it’s expected that trucks, cranes, computer systems, berths, fuel pumps, and underground infrastructure may have all been affected by the hurricane hitting the bay.

The Port of New Orleans is one of the U.S.’s primary exporters of agriculture products. An estimated 65% of the United States’ agriculture products are exported out of the port of New Orleans.

Now that the hurricane has left, relief efforts are kicking into full gear. Since the storm is over, activity is resuming very slowly for businesses who are able to operate. The Port of New Orleans is one of them. Reports indicate they have resumed activity with restrictions. Cargo is able to pass through the Mississippi river mouth and Nine Mile Point on the western edge of New Orleans, but it can only be used during daylight and by deep draft vessels.

A giant power transmission tower collapsed near Avondale shipyard site, causing the lines to fall into the river. The obstruction and danger of the lines has made miles 105-108 of the river impassible, however, they are expected to be able to remove the lines from the water by Friday this week.

The hope is that the cleanup and relief efforts should get the shipping industry back on its feet sooner than later, however, as of right now there’s an estimated 40 barges along the Mississippi banks. The port of New Orleans is opening slowly and in phases – they have already resumed activity at one break bulk terminal, and others are opening up over the coming days.

At this point in time, shippers are being advised to be patient and flexible as operations return to normal. It may be several weeks before we see any type of significant resume in shipping activity. Until then, if you have any questions about your freight along the Mississippi or are looking for solutions on how to reroute your cargo, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members! We would love to help answer any questions you have and help you and your team in any way possible. Here are some other blogs you might be interested in:

Tips for Navigating Most Common Shipping Frustrations

Shipping During Unreliable Market Conditions 


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