Port authorities across the U.S. eastern seaboard continue to take stock of their facilities in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said there was no electrical power at the port and "no time frame for repair."
A memorandum from Richard M. Larrabee, director of the Port Commerce department, said channels were closed, roads were covered with debris, traffic signals were out of service, rail track was compromised, and fencing is damaged.
"Port authority staff is working to clear roads and is communicating with the container terminal operators and major tenants to coordinate the cleanup and reinstatement of service. Only select essential personnel are permitted on port at this time. All non-essential personnel will be denied access by Port Authority Police Department," Larrabee said.
He said the agency will provide a further update by close of business Wednesday.
"Please be advised the entire port has sustained devastating damage and flooding," Maher Terminals, the largest container terminal operator in the harbor, said in an update Tuesday. "We are waiting for permission from the port authority to access the terminals so we can determine the extent of the damages."
Tom Boyd, a spokesman for APM Terminals, said on Wednesday "our teams will access our facility which is above the tidal surge."
He noted the Coast Guard port captain has to certify port channels and main channel are safe and that all markers and buoys are in place.
A video taken during a Coast Guard helicopter flight over part of the port showed some containers overturned at the New York Container Terminal
in the Howland Hook section of Staten Island, N.Y.
Information about the condition of the port was difficult to come by because telephone lines were not working and, in some cases, terminal personnel were unable to get to their offices. One public relations spokesman said truck drivers were calling her to ascertain if the terminal was accessible because they were unable to reach any other office in the port.
Joe Menta, a spokesman for the Port of Philadelphia, said that port “is open for business and there is little or no damage at our facilities.” He said engineers are still conducting a survey, however.
Menta did not know if any vessels bound for New York would divert to Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, the Port of Baltimore reopened at 2 p.m. Tuesday, with vessel operations due to commence at 7 p.m. Ports America, the terminal operator at Baltimore, said its offices would open Wednesday morning, as would all terminal operations.
Further south, the Port of Virginia also said the working of vessels would begin at its terminals at 7 p.m. Tuesday, with ships having been waylaid by the storm being brought in on a staggered schedule.
Mark Montgomery, president and CEO of Ports America Chesapeake, said Wednesday is the first time that teams from Ports America will be able to get into the Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) to assess damage.
He said container stacks appear “not to be in such bad shape,” but employees will need to assess whether there is damage to electrical systems at the port and have to pump out water and let equipment dry.
Montgomery said there is debris in the harbor, including some floating containers.
He said some lines are beginning to discuss whether to modify port rotations or move cargo through other ports such as Baltimore, where Ports America has recently added a new berth and cranes to the Seagirt terminal and Norfolk where Ports America has a stevedoring joint venture, CP&O, with Cooper T. Smith that loads and unloads ships at Norfolk International Terminal and the APM Terminal.
Timothy Simpson, a spokesman for Maersk Line, said his company was "committed to getting cargo moving," but added a call had not yet been made as of Tuesday evening on whether New York cargo will be diverted to other ports.
Like many shipping companies, Maersk had to close its office in Madison, N.J. because electricity outages, while its facility in Charlotte, N.C. remained open. - Chris Dupin
and Eric Johnson