Most seaports in southern Florida are closed to cargo container traffic or will close by the end of the day due to the approaching Hurricane Irma, threatening to create delays to cargo movement through one of the country’s major freight shipping hubs. Last year, the Port of Miami and Port Everglades handled around 778,000 and 735,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo, respectively, underscoring the significant volume of freight at risk of delays due to the storm. Additionally, the Georgia Ports Authority announced that it will close the Port of Brunswick and the Port of Savannah, one of the country’s largest container ports which handles more than three million TEUs of cargo annually, from Saturday until at least Tuesday, September 12. The Port of Charleston in South Carolina, another leading U.S. container port, will currently remain open at least through Saturday night.
The ports of Miami and Everglades, which are likely to experience the longest closures, are important hubs for imports of goods from Asia and Europe, respectively, and increasingly for exported products. Southern Florida is also the country’s leading region for the production of a variety of types of produce, including oranges, tomatoes, green beans, and squash, valued in total at around $1.2 billion, underscoring the serious threat of disruption to food supply chains originating in the state caused by potential crop damage. Additionally, airlines so far canceled more than 2,000 flights out of the airports in Miami, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale, which are all among the 25 largest airports in the United States, and officials expect that the vast majority of air traffic through these and other nearby facilities will stop as the hurricane is expected to pass over the region by Sunday afternoon. The effects of Hurricane Irma, which recently downgraded to a still-powerful Category 4 storm, will impact the U.S. southeast about two weeks after Hurricane Harvey struck near Houston, severely interrupting commercial supply chain activities, including sea, rail, and road shipping, in southeastern Texas for several days.