As the Northeast U.S. reels from the mega-storm called Sandy and faces possible additional difficulties from follow-on storm Athena, some carriers serving the region find their recovery efforts are ahead of those of their customers.
Con-way Freight, one of the country's largest less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers, reports that about 10 percent of its customers in the affected regions remain closed, even though the carrier is operational. For the LTL division of Con-way Inc., the issue now "is getting freight flows current and balanced in the system, and completing the delivery of freight into the affected areas," said Gary N. Frantz, a Con-way spokesman, in an e-mail.
Jeff Rogers, head of YRC Freight, the long-haul unit of YRC Worldwide, said through a spokeswoman that the company was experiencing similar issues with its customer base. Rogers was unable to quantify at press time how many customers remain closed.
Susan L. Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for UPS Inc., said some UPS customers are closed but more are reopening each day. Shipment backlogs have been cleared, Rosenberg said. Some customers that are either closed or at minimal operating levels have executed "return-to-shipper" requests or have redirected shipments to other locations so impacted facilities can recover, she said.
UPS is still not operating in 19 ZIP codes in the New York metropolitan area and seven in neighboring New Jersey. It has added three ZIP codes in Massachusetts to that list. Athena has hit the Northeast and New England with rain, snow, high winds, and coastal flooding.
FedEx Corp. said its FedEx Express air unit, the operations most affected by Sandy, will hold shipments at FedEx locations for customers that have yet to reopen, according to Chris Stanley, a FedEx spokesman. Stanley said he wasn't aware of any specific customer that was still shuttered.
Stanley said FedEx's operations "are moving near normal," though it continues to have difficulty serving the region's hardest hit areas. Athena is "not anything we can't work around," he said.
Meanwhile, the Port of Virginia said it is in the process of returning to the Northeast between 5,800 and 6,500 loaded containers that were scheduled to call at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey but were diverted to Virginia after Sandy forced the bi-state agency to shut its marine terminals for a week. In addition, 3,500 automobiles diverted to Virginia are being shipped back, port officials said.
Most of the returned goods will move by rail because truckers face multiple challenges heading into the affected region, port officials said. About 1,200 containers will move to New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia via barge. Virginia is no longer receiving diverted vessels or cargo.
"We're extremely busy dealing with the backlog of cargo, and it is going to take some time to get completely back to normal," said Rodney W. Oliver, interim executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, which runs the state's ports. "We are working to move the cargo to its destination by any means available: truck, rail, and barge."
ALAN Chief: Recovery to Take Years
The American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), which connects the supply chain community with governments and organizations involved in disaster aid, said Thursday its efforts have shifted from relief to a recovery process that Jock Menzies, ALAN's president, said will likely take years to complete.
"We have seen an outpouring of support from the supply chain community," Menzies said. "To date, donation offers have included warehouse space, office space, material handling equipment, and engineering expertise."
Menzies cautioned that the supply chain is working through the "early stages" of this disaster and that it "will be critical to sustain this momentum to ensure that all needs are met."
According to Menzies, the best way to help is to offer monetary donations to reputable disaster relief organizations or make contributions of bulk commodities. Menzies urged individuals and organizations to "donate responsibly by knowing what is needed and [by] responding to posted requests for support."
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