Crowley Adds Six Vessels to Puerto Rico Trade After Storm

Workers unload containers of shipping company Crowley from a barge after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria at the port in San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

By the end of this week Jacksonville-based shipping company Crowley Maritime Corporation will have offloaded more than 6,500 loads of FEMA and commercial cargo from 20 vessels at its San Juan, Puerto Rico terminal since Hurricane Maria struck the island in late September, the company said in an update Tuesday.

Crowley projects another 9 vessels, carrying between 2,500 and 3,000 loads, will arrive in Puerto Rico next week.

Much of Crowley’s hurricane relief effort is being directed by its logistics division, which has a dedicated team providing drayage, direct deliveries, deconsolidation, inventory control, and final mile deliveries in Puerto Rico, along with a team on the U.S. mainland coordinating trucking, cross-docking, and cargo deliveries to the ports for ocean transport, the company said in the update.

Since the storm passed, a steady stream of vessels has been providing the island with a pipeline of much-needed food, water, fuel, building materials, machinery, and equipment.

“Crowley’s vessel calls and loads carried since the onset of the storm is more than double our normal weekly volume,” said Crowley’s John Hourihan Jr., senior vice president and general manager, Puerto Rico services. “Most of the additional cargo consists of water, ready-to-eat meals and other relief supplies, as well as utility trucks, fuel trucks, and many other types of rolling equipment on behalf of FEMA.”

“We have responded to immediate and projected longer-term needs on the island by adding six vessels to our fleet to ensure there is plenty of cargo carrying capacity between the mainland and Puerto Rico,” Hourihan said.

In addition to Crowley, TOTE Maritime and Trailer Bridge have also had Jones Act-qualifying vessels arriving in San Juan with cargo and supplies from the U.S. mainland.

Crowley’s logistics group now has more than 375 trucks being used for distribution activities on the island, and the team is supporting FEMA with regional distribution capabilities in Ceiba, Aguadilla, and the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.

“I am very pleased and appreciative of the efforts our truck drivers have made to speed relief cargo to those in need,” said Frank Larkin, senior vice president and general manager, logistics and commercial services. “We were the only logistics provider that had truck power – albeit limited at the time – available as soon as the U.S. Coast Guard reopened the port in San Juan. The port was reopened at 8 a.m. on Sept. 23, the first Crowley vessel was in discharging cargo at 10 a.m., and many of our truckers were right there to deliver relief cargo to FEMA’s distribution center when no other trucking or logistics company was providing transportation services on the island.”

Congestion on Crowley’s Isla Grande Terminal in San Juan continues to be a challenge, though there have been some improvement. The pace of loads being dispatched from the terminal and trucked out to locations on the island has gradually improved to near the normal rate of 400 to 500 loads per day, according to Crowley. While this has helped clear some of the backlog, the additional volumes brought into the port have kept the total loads awaiting dispatch at more than twice the normal amount, the company noted.

Crowley, which has about 300 Puerto Rico employees and has served the Puerto Rico market since 1954.

Noting the island will have needs extending beyond response activities, Crowley said, “While emergency response work continues, it is not too soon to begin focusing on how Puerto Rico’s needs can be met over the longer term. We look forward to working as a coalition with government and business to help Puerto Rico rebuild and come back stronger than ever.”

Here’s a video update from Crowley: