US Southeast shippers grapple with post-Irma rail delays

Hurricane Irma has passed and intermodal rail service to areas north of Central Florida has largely been restored, but intermodal shippers can still expect delays of up to three days for railed cargo moving through the Southeast.

Not only are some routes into Central and South Florida still not online, but primary rail providers have said they are metering cargo even for routes that are operating normally as they work through cargo backlogs that started to mount before the storm.

Class I rail carriers CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway, as well as Class II regional railroad Florida East Coast Railway (FECR), reported Wednesday that service is coming back online in the Southeast areas that took the brunt of Hurricane Irma’s impact.

CSX intermodal terminals in Jacksonville, Central Florida, and Tampa reopened as of Wednesday. CSX said on Wednesday that crews worked through the night to restore broad swaths of service in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama and the railway has resumed normal train operations into Waycross and Savannah, Georgia. There is still only limited service into Jacksonville, though, where the railroad is based.

CSX operating teams continue to work on the railroad’s Jacksonville-to-Tampa line, which is anticipated to be restored Wednesday evening. CSX’s Tampa-to-Miami line and Jacksonville-Orlando line are still under evaluation with repair timetables to be determined.

“Updates on restoration of service to additional areas are expected tomorrow,” Rob Doolittle, a CSX spokesman, told Wednesday. “In advance of that information being available, it’s difficult to be more precise about the duration of potential delays.”

Details on NS service were scant on Wednesday. FECR reported Wednesday that NS had started to receive traffic in Atlanta at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, but nothing more recent was available.

As of Tuesday, NS had resumed acceptance at origin terminals for containers of all types billed to Charleston. An NS embargo remained in place, however, for containers billed to Savannah, Jacksonville, and FECR destinations. NS on Tuesday also said there were no issues with track stability along routes used to service the Greer Inland Port in South Carolina and trains are able to move to and from Greer destination without issue.

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