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Shipping Operations Normal After U.S. Terrorists Attacks
BY MARIALBA MARTINEZ
September 20, 2001
Puerto Ricos ocean carrier companies with operations in the ports of New York & New Jersey at Elizabeth (PNYNJ) and Baltimore were not critically affected by the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) shutdown after the New York World Trade Centers terrorist attack, according to a CARIBBEAN BUSINESS investigation.
On Tuesday afternoon, San Juan-based ocean carrier CSX Lines announced that 17 of its TransFlo terminals had been closed after the attacks, including terminals in Boston, PNYNJ, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, and Baltimore. The PNYNJ was finally reopened on Thursday, September 13, on a limited basis to commercial traffic.
"On Monday, a CSX vessel left San Juan on its way to Elizabeth, N.J., arriving Friday," said Gabriel Serra, who was stranded in Dallas at the time of the attack. "The ship had pharmaceutical cargo that needed to be delivered with immediacy, but the PNYNJ was opened on Thursday, so the ship is on schedule [on Friday].
"But we did look at alternate ports to dock in case the port at Elizabeth was closed. At the time of the attack there were no CSX vessels in the PNYNJ headed for San Juan," said Serra. On Friday, a vessel sailed from San Juan to Jacksonville, Fla., also carrying pharmaceutical supplies. According to Serra, the levels of cargo did not rise dramatically because the companys sailings were never interrupted.
Within the San Juan-U.S. mainland market, most north- and southbound vessels were in transit at the time of the order. On Tuesday, following the terrorist attacks in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., the U.S. Coast Guard ordered the Ports of Baltimore and PNYNJ shut.
In Puerto Rico, Trailer Bridge, with a weekly sailing from San Juan to the Port of Newark, remained open for business on Tuesday. The company allowed employees personally affected by the news of the terrorists attacks to go home, and only essential personnel were retained.
"Trailer Bridges Thursday sailing was delayed one day due to the PNYNJs shutdown between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13. The vessel is now on its way to San Juan and will arrive on Sept. 21," said Ralph Heim, president of Trailer Bridge.
John McCown, chairman and CEO of Trailer Bridge, said, "Company offices in mid-town New York were not damaged by the attack. Our employees are safe and everything is operationally returning back to normal. At this point, we are focused on our future operations and do not foresee any more problems," said McCown.
From San Juan, Trailer Bridge finished loading its vessel headed for Newark on Tuesday evening. The ship delayed its departure until early Wednesday morning but expected to arrive in Newark on Sept. 19.
The remaining ocean carrier companies in Puerto Rico continued their sailings to unaffected ports in the U.S. eastern seaboard. Roberto Lugo, vice president for Crowley Lines Service in Puerto Rico, reported that all its offices had reported normal operations, albeit with heightened security. Crowley sails from San Juan to Petty Island, N.J.
Meanwhile, Sea Star Lines vessels were also running on time from San Juan to Floridas Everglades and Jacksonville ports. Sea Star General Manager Jaime Santiago said, "Our companys security systems are in place to protect our clients interests and the safety of its employees."
Navieras ports of call being Jacksonville and Philadelphia, general sales manager Geoffrey Thurston said, "There has been no disruption of our services to our clients."
On Tuesday afternoon, confusion did reign in the Port of Puerto Nuevo when companies and government agencies shut down operations. Some companies thought the order had come down from the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, others from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office issued Security Awareness alerts to all vessels, facilities, and ports in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The alert recommend implementation of security plans for vessels and facilities but allowed all port operations to remain open.
"We have been meeting with a number of groups related to the maritime cargo industry in Puerto Rico, asking them for cooperation in reporting any suspicious activity to local authorities. Among the groups contacted were the Ports Authority, Shipping Association, Pilots Association, ocean carrier companies, and other emergency management groups," said Capt. Joseph Servidio, U.S. Coast Guard Commander.
Several freight forwarding and consolidating companies on the island complained that their operations were affected by the random closing of cargo transportation companies and government agencies. There was a report that the Puerto Rico Treasury Departments Excise Tax office shut down operations around noon, which interrupted cargo documents processing permitting the release of containers.
Airline cargo service within the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico was cancelled on Tuesday after the terrorists attack. It was expected to begin after each air carriers security guidelines were submitted to the FAA for approval. Within the U.S., companies such as FedEx Express, UPS, and Airborne Express distributed cargo through ground operations transportation.
While the carriers continued accepting shipments from their clients, 24- and 48-hour delivery was cancelled. By Friday evening, when airports were slowly being opened for business, the companies were repositioning its aircraft to their home bases in order to resume operations as soon as the FAA ban was lifted.
On Friday, international air carrier DHL announced it had resumed air operations from Miami to Latin America and the Caribbean, flying to its hubs in Caracas, Venezuela and Panama City, Panama. During the U.S. shutdown, the company was able to maintain service operations throughout Latin American and the Caribbean with heightened security measures.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.