Superstorm Sandy ravages U.S. East Coast, disrupts supply chains

Hurricane Sandy, which earned “superstorm” status due to the unprecedented havoc it wrecked on the U.S. East Coast on Monday and Tuesday, disrupted supply chains worldwide. In addition to resulting in more than 12,000 cancelled flights and numerous airport closures, the category 1 storm — which is projected to cost the economy as much as $20 billion — has impeded the flow of cargo.

The seafreight sector has arguably been hit the hardest, but Hurricane Sandy has also affected air cargo, officials from UPS and FedEx told Air Cargo World. With numerous airports shut down as of midday Monday — including New York’s John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, as well as Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport — UPS was forced to reroute flights, explained Vito Losurdo, UPS’ vice president of global airfreight services.

“Supply chains were temporarily paused to and from the affected areas or have seen volumes diverted to alternate secure storage areas in the UPS network,” Losurdo said. He explained that UPS rerouted flights to and from impacted areas to the company’s Louisville World Port facility, which was unscathed by Hurricane Sandy. This, Losurdo said, “limited disruption to our customers’ supply chains.”

Losurdo said the situation is improving as of Tuesday, and UPS is beginning to move freight by road to affected areas. He’s also optimistic that the Northeastern U.S.’s transportation infrastructure will rebound shortly.

“As the remnants of Hurricane Sandy get cleaned up and water dissipates, the Northeast is coming back on line,” Losurdo explained to Air Cargo World. “Flights could start landing in JFK as early as Wednesday morning.”

Even so, a Cathay Pacific spokesperson seriously doubts that John F. Kennedy International Airport — which is contending with flooded runways — is ready to welcome carriers. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific nixed all of its flights to JFK on Tuesday and Wednesday, and rerouted freight service to Chicago on both days. “While we will endeavor to restore flights [there] as soon as possible, this may take longer than expected,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Lufthansa Cargo’s Matthias Eberle revealed to Air Cargo World that his company’s services to JFK airport haven’t been disrupted yet. Although Lufthansa has cancelled passenger routes to JFK since the storm hit on Monday, Eberle said freight routes to the airport — which operate from every Wednesday to Sunday — are slated to operate as scheduled.

From an airfreight perspective, Eberle said Hurricane Sandy has only minimally affected Lufthansa Cargo’s operations. “Our staff is working flat out at the airline’s stations to keep any inconvenience to customers to an absolute minimum,” he said.

Shea Leordeanu, a spokeswoman for FedEx, said the global logistics provider is also working to minimize kinks in the supply chain caused by Hurricane Sandy. Although FedEx has temporarily closed facilities and halted deliveries in some areas, she said the company is committed to resuming services as soon as it is “safe to do so.”

“However, local disruptions will occur as authorities restrict access or downed power lines, road closures and/or storm debris our limit access,” Leordeanu told Air Cargo World. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

(Picture courtesy of NOAA — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

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