The costly consequences of 2020 Gulf storms for Maritime and logistics visualized in data

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Storms in the Gulf of Mexico have kept the US Gulf states under an almost constant storm watch for the last six weeks. Tropical storms Marco, Laura, Sally, and Teddy delivered winds, rains and flooding as well as shut down many businesses. Over the next few weeks, we’re applying our data to Spire’s Cloud Analytics service to take a closer look at the impact these storms have on port traffic.

This is part 1 of our analysis and we’re examining offshore, container, and bulk vessel port activity before and after these summer storms.

Our Cloud Analytics service analyzes and derives insight from our maritime data, to provide custom insights relating to maritime business activities, in this case, tracking port events and calls.

Port activity around the storm by ship type

In this chart, Spire’s data captures port calls in the Gulf of Mexico region, including the Bahamas, Cuba, and Mexico. You can see the number of vessels decline greatly on the dates of hurricane Laura (Aug 20-29). In contrast, offshore vessels increase in number on these dates.

Gulf of Mexico region port calls August 2020. Source: Spire Analytics

Beginning with tropical depression Marco, to Laura, Sally, and Teddy, August and September have been particularly difficult for the Gulf states. Vessels generally take shelter in ports during these storms when the option to leave the area isn’t viable.

Gulf of Mexico region time in port by ship type, August 2020. Source: Spire Analytics

However, sheltering in ports can incur high costs, not just wait fees from ports but also fuel, staff and operational expenses. Bulkers, for example, can’t load and unload in the rain so operators of these types of ships tend to move out of port areas before the rain. For these reasons, reliable weather forecasts are especially valuable for bulk ship operators.

The below chart shows the number of port events for bulk carriers decrease during the storm.

Bulk Vessels Port Events August 2020. Source: Spire Analytics

The below chart shows the top ports for bulk carriers and the average time spent there. Before the storm the average time was around 40 hours, then it almost tripled during the storm. There is a longer delay for ships that arrived during the storm as no activity was happening. This further emphasizes the fact that Bulkers are better off planning ahead and moving out during storms to avoid delays across the supply chain.

Bulk vessels time in port August 2020. Source: Spire Analytics

The chart below tracks four offshore vessels and the ports they called most during the storm time period as well as long they spent at port. Fourchon is the biggest offshore supply port serving mostly petroleum industry traffic.

Gulf of Mexico region offshore port events, August 2020. Source: Spire Analytics

Gulf of Mexico region offshore time in port, August 2020. Source: Spire Analytics

Here is the average time containers were taking to load/offload in port as the storm hit. As you can see, the time was increasing during the storm, but increased further post-storm, possibly due to a backlog. This chart tells a much bigger story of the ripple effect this would have on the whole supply chain for containers, the bulk of which is often consumer goods.

Container ship port events August 2020. Source: Spire Analytics

Considering Laura was closely followed by Sally (Sep 11-17), we can safely assume that many industries and supply chains have been negatively impacted by this storm season, and this comes just after significant disruptions caused the ongoing pandemic, Covid-19.

Data is key to adapting operations to survive current and future challenges caused by climate change, global pandemics, etc. At Spire, we go beyond tracking vessels to develop intelligent predictive tools that support safety, efficient operations and cost savings.

This is just one example of the types of analytic services we can deliver to the maritime industry derived from our maritime data. You can download all the data we used for this analysis for free below, or book a chat with our team to discuss what data services and analytics would help you overcome your current and future challenges. Book a meeting here, we’re here to help!

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