Hurricane Idalia Spawns Supply Chain Delays for Logistics Giants

Already shuttering the waterways at two of Florida’s busiest ports, Hurricane Idalia’s landfall Wednesday morning is likely to spell delays for the supply chain as service levels at major logistics players operating in the southeastern U.S. take a hit.

The winds—which at one point peaked at 125 miles per hour—adjusted their path westward of Tampa Bay, a major supply chain hub in western Florida, upon landfall. This actually prevented a direct hit to the supply chain and likely spared damage to fuel systems in the region, according to Ben Ruddell, director of the Fewsion Project and professor in the School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems at Northern Arizona University.

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“If you’re concerned about supply chains, what you can expect in the next week is some delays in transportation and shipping for anything that’s moving through or coming out of the affected area—the Gulf Coast of Florida. I think that’s reasonable to assume,” Ruddell told Sourcing Journal. “If you’re really unlucky, maybe you have a sole source supplier that’s sitting there on the north side of Tampa or in Tallahassee, you might miss a shipment because they’re going to be in recovery mode there and probably aren’t going to be keeping up with their usual efficiency.”

Ruddell anticipates supply chain recovery within the week despite the mass flooding and power outages.

“I would expect things to be back to normal in a couple of days,” said Ruddell. “Minor delays, which is lucky because with a slightly different storm track, it could have been very different.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Fewsion Project uses comprehensive data mapping to monitor domestic supply chains down to individual U.S. counties. The project was developed to give government officials and emergency managers accurate supply chain information so they can be aware of the risks from hurricanes, pandemics and geopolitical issues.

Logistics players across ocean freight, parcel delivery, rail and trucking have adjusted their service schedules to mitigate the natural disaster’s impact.

On the ocean freight front, container shipping giant Maersk said its business resilience team is working with leadership at approximately 30 of the company’s facilities that will experience some impact from Idalia over the next several days.

These locations include offices, warehouses, stations and air freight facilities from South Florida through the Carolinas. Maersk said it has been implementing business continuity plans for storm operations, but does not have any major disruptions to facility operations as a result of the hurricane.

FedEx said delays and disruptions can be expected for inbound and outbound shipments starting Wednesday in impacted areas. The company’s air freight division, FedEx Express, will not provide service to 327 ZIP codes in Florida. FedEx Ground canceled service to 667 ZIP codes throughout the state.

In the event of evacuations, shipments that were not delivered before the storm will be secured in a FedEx facility. Delivery will be attempted when it is safe to do so.

While UPS says most facilities are providing pickup and delivery services as conditions permit, some delays are possible. Seventy-three ZIP codes in Florida are seeing impacted service levels.

Contingency plans are in place to help ensure that shipments arrive at their final destinations as quickly as possible, but the UPS Service Guarantee does not apply to shipments affected by this weather event, the package delivery company says.

CSX, which has major rail yards in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa, has been monitoring Idalia, but hasn’t issued any new advisories since Monday.

“Although the path of the storm remains uncertain, CSX is prepared to implement precautionary measures and adjust operations to protect employees, rail traffic and infrastructure,” the railroad operator said. “We will continue to track the storm as it evolves, and will issue further notifications as warranted.”

The storm is also impacting trucking services. ArcBest’s less than truckload (LTL) division, ABF Freight, has closed down five Florida-based service centers, as well as two in Georgia.

Additionally, XPO closed its service centers in Tampa, Jacksonville and Monticello, Fla., and limited pickup and delivery in Orlando, Fla. and Savannah and Albany, Ga. XPO said to expect delays for freight originating in, destined for or traveling through Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers and Pompano Beach throughout the duration of the storm.

In Florida, Old Dominion closed service centers in Tampa, Ocala and Jacksonville, while it shuttered its Savannah, Vidalia and Sylvester service centers in Georgia. The trucking giant’s facilities in Sarasota and Lakeland, Fla. currently offer extremely limited operations with major service delays, while the Orlando hub is operating at 50 percent under moderate service delays.

Currently, Old Dominion’s Charleston, S.C. service center is operating at 75 percent with slight delays in select service areas, but could still change.

But Ruddell noted that trucking companies on the whole are able to reroute around the Florida Gulf Coast, which will cause some minor shipment delays.

“The great thing about road networks is they’re very resilient. The fastest path is usually through Tallahassee and down to Tampa,” Ruddell said. “It’s pretty easy to reroute and find roads that are in good shape and to avoid the impacted areas, so that’s what they’re doing.”

At the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick in Georgia, all terminals were open and working Wednesday until noon, before the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) closed the gates for safety reasons. All inbound gates closed to traffic at 11 a.m. for pickup or dual moves.

With all the uncertainty, Ruddell made one final recommendation to shippers affected by the natural disaster.

“Everybody was already planning on doing this, I’m sure, but call your customers,” Ruddell said. Call your suppliers, talk to them. Find out what’s going on, how you can help and what you can expect. Just communicate so that everybody can do what they need to adapt and adjust.”

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