East Coast auto ports plan for stormy future

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The port of Charleston, S.C., is the primary loading center for export from BMW.

One of the biggest attractions of the Southeast region for car manufacturers is the large ports that facilitate the trade in finished vehicles and parts for domestic assembly plants.

But a big vulnerability is that these ports are exactly in the target zone for Atlantic hurricanes. And as the frequency and intensity of storms increase as a result of global warming, automakers and transport companies are taking extra precautions to ensure the continuity of operations and to prevent damage to completed vehicles.

The only car terminal that hit the Hurricane Florence last week directly, was located in the port of Charleston, SC, the primary loading center for export from BMW and parts arriving from Germany for its plant in Spartanburg, SC. All the vehicles on the dock were loaded on two loaded roll-on / roll-off ships that left for the storm to Europe and China last week.

Transportation of the docks for bad weather is a top priority for port authorities, terminal operators and manufacturers.

"Preparing and coordinating with tenants about what to do with the freight and tracking your hurricane plan and Coast Guard days ahead" are of great importance, said Nancy Rubin, spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Port Authority in Florida, as well as a meeting with customers and law enforcement about how to bounce after the storm.

Logistic experts say that port companies and users have learned through experience how they can minimize damage and disruption.

Automakers, for their part, keep vehicles in the factory when a storm comes their way.

Railways divert trains to yards outside the hurricane zone to protect their equipment and cargo. If there are vehicles on the dock and no ship has arrived on time, logistic service providers are trying to move a nearby ocean operator to make an unplanned stop and clean up the inventory, says William Kerrigan, vice president of auto-logistics. at terminal operator SSA Marine, of Seattle.

Vehicles are in Jacksonville, JaxPort from Fla. Experts say that ports have learned from experience how hurricane damage and disruption can be minimized.

Ports also invest in infrastructure to make themselves more resilient. The port of New York and New Jersey suffered significant damage from unprecedented flooding six years ago during Superstorm Sandy. After the port authority was initially focused on repairs so that facilities could be reopened, the port authority began to plan and implement projects to protect assets against future natural disasters.

In 2013, the agency, which also manages four airports, a railway transit system, tunnels and other assets, a special Storm Mining and Resilience Agency, has been set up to ensure that facilities are being rebuilt to reflect new and evolving expectations of severe weather and climate change.

Under the Sandy-related investments is a project to restore the road and coastline at the BMW car processing and shipping facility in Port Jersey.

Jacksonville & # 39; s JaxPort and the Brunswick harbor in Georgia are among the largest ports in the US in terms of volume of completed vehicles. JaxPort handled 693,248 vehicles in fiscal year 2017, an increase of 13 percent in five years. Brunswick handled 607,000 vehicles last year.

BMW & # 39; s being unloaded from a train in the Charleston Harbor, S.C.

The growth of the population and the production of foreign transplants such as Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Kia and Mercedes are according to experts accelerating the growth of both ports.

The proximity of large autominas with good rail links was a factor in the selection of foreign brands and "very important for the profitability and long-term viability of the Southeast Corridor", said Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Markit & # 39; s automotive consulting service.

Meanwhile, automakers are importing more vehicles as the population centers in the region, such as Atlanta, grow.

Florida, with 21 million inhabitants, has ousted New York as the third most populous state.