As the Port of New Orleans recovers from the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, North Carolina’s Port of Morehead City is stepping up to help tire manufacturers keep their factories running.
The Port’s Cargo Operations Department expects to load more than double the normal number of trucks to deliver natural rubber to tire plants this week, said Ronni Parrott, the superintendent of Cargo Handling Operations. The pace is expected to increase before the recovery is complete.
New Orleans handles more natural rubber imports for tire manufacturing than any other port in the United States and Morehead City is second, handling more than 200,000 tons in the fiscal year just ended.
Even as the hurricane came ashore, activities at the Port of Morehead City increased as rubber in the warehouses there was dispatched to plants to replace rubber which wouldn’t be shipped from New Orleans once the storm hit. The Port expects to load more than 250 rubber trucks this week for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. alone, more than double a usual week.
As the severity of damage in New Orleans began to be clear, tire manufacturers and their shipping companies turned to Morehead City for more help. Two ships already scheduled to unload part of their natural-rubber cargo, then proceed to New Orleans, will now discharge their entire loads of more than 16,000 units apiece at 1.5 tons per unit at Morehead City.
By way of comparison, four ships discharged a total of 20,000 units at the Port in February, which set a record for one month. In the first two months of this fiscal year, the average discharge has been about 7,000 units per ship, with the largest offload ever handled almost 9,000 units.
Rubber tonnage for all of fiscal 2005 was 206,614 tons. The two ships scheduled in September will equal 25% of that. Mr. Parrott said that his workers, a department of fewer than two dozen, will be working 12-hour shifts for the foreseeable future
We’ll do what we need to do to handle this sudden rubber demand, he said, as well as continue to provide the Port’s usual excellent service to other customers.
While rubber is the Port’s largest breakbulk commodity, the world’s largest forest-products carrier, Gearbulk, began service from South America earlier this year. Steel imports and exports are on the rise as well.
Goodyear is the Port’s largest rubber customer. Other manufacturers whose rubber passes across the docks at Morehead City include Cooper, Michelin, Bridgestone and Continental.