Crowley: Commercial Cargoes to Puerto Rico Picking Up

crowley flat-deck barge
Photo: Crowley Maritime

U.S. shipping company Crowley Maritime said today that by the end of the week it will have offloaded more than 9,500 loads of commercial and government relief cargo in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in late September.

As part of its ongoing response to the storm, Crowley has added six U.S.-flagged flat-deck barges to its fleet serving the Jones Act trade between Jacksonville, Florida and San Juan. With the additional vessel capacity, Crowley will be offering 6,200 commercial cargo slots per month in November and December, an increase of 40 percent compared to normal.

Crowley said in an update on Wednesday that FEMA relief shipments to the island remain strong, while commercial cargo shipments are also increasing to more normal levels.

“Given all that the island needs, we view all cargo – government and commercial – as vital to our recovery,” said Jose “Pache” Ayala, vice president, Puerto Rico services. “We are encouraged to see commercial customers slowly beginning to get back up and running.”

Crowley has a sailing every day this week from the U.S. mainland to San Juan. More than 900 commercial loads were put on vessels in the last 72 hours, including more than 100 refrigerated containers, and all are in transit to the island, according to the company.

As one of the main Jones Act shipping companies serving the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico trade, Crowley continues to work closely with FEMA in support of its mission. So far the company has managed transportation and logistics of nearly 2,600 FEMA loads, with bookings to transport another 1,700 loads to Puerto Rico in the next several weeks – a significant effort spanning more than 40 vessel sailings.

In Wednesday’s update, Crowley noted that its Isla Grande Terminal in San Juan continues to experience unusually high volumes of cargo on the terminal, though the rate of loads being dispatched is returning to close to the normal rate of 500 per day.

“The increased terminal throughput has reduced the significant backlog resulting from on-island disruptions due to the hurricane, but additional volumes of commercial and relief cargo reaching Puerto Rico still leave unusually high loads awaiting dispatch,” the update said.

Upon reaching Puerto Rico, relief cargo is being distributed in part by Crowley Logistics, which has more than 375 trucks on the island. By Thursday, Crowley said it will have completed more than 1,200 delivery missions for FEMA through its on-island supply chain services. The company is supporting FEMA with regional distribution in Ceiba, Aguadilla, and the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.

By the end of last week, Tote Maritime, which also operates the Jones Act Puerto Rico trade, said it will have delivered more than 5,200 containers of goods to the island since Hurricane Maria struck. As of October 11 TOTE’s terminal in San Juan reached 87 percent productivity, with more than 330 loads of relief and commercial goods leaving the terminal.

Pasha Hawaii and Seacor Join Relief Efforts

On Tuesday, Honolulu-based Pasha Hawaii announced that it will be providing the Jones Act-qualified vessel Horizon Spirit to ship hundreds of containers from the West Coast in support of hurricane relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. The Horizon Spirit serves as a drydock reserve ship in Pasha Hawaii’s container service between the mainland and Hawaii.

Pasha said it has partnered with nation’s largest governmental bottled water supplier to bring approximately 800 containers filled with over 15 million bottles of water to the island. The Horizon Spirit will load the bottled water at the Port of Los Angeles and traverse the Panama Canal en route to Puerto Rico; the vessel will be made available in the Puerto Rico service thereafter.

Florida-base SEACOR Holdings (NYSE:CKH) announced this week that three of its entities have been awarded contracts to help expedite Puerto Rico’s recovery.

“Our shipping group’s SEA-CHEM 1 vessel has been on station in San Juan for 15 days delivering diesel oil directly into trucks which ferry the fuel to critical care facilities, such as hospitals and dialysis centers,” said Eric Fabrikant, Chief Operating Officer.

Seacor’s CLEANCOR joint venture is also in the process of assembling 21 tank-trailers which carry drinking water, according to the company. “They are being loaded on vessels bound for Puerto Rico tomorrow. These units carry 120,000 gallons of potable water, which will service local communities. We were able to place these containers on our Trailer Bridge affiliate’s regular weekly sailing to ensure prompt delivery,” said Fabrikant.

Seacor will also providing the landing craft, Bahamas Express, in support the Virgin Islands recovery effort, delivering generators and supplies in hard to access locations on the islands.