Florida’s 15 seaports are leading the nation in resiliency for sea-level rise and natural disasters, according to a new study released recently by the Florida Ports Council. The report also provides recommendations for ports across the state to be prepared for future environmental changes and disruptive events.
Our state’s seaports have a tremendous economic impact on the state of Florida, and we must ensure our port infrastructure is resilient in the face of these disruptions. We are pleased to share that Florida’s ports are already committed to innovative practices to protect our ports and support recovery from hurricanes and other disasters.
Florida’s ports support more than 900,000 jobs and have a total economic impact of more than $117 billion. Disruption of local ports causes major economic and recovery challenges. Port resiliency, which allows continued freight movement after a crisis, includes planning for damage to infrastructure, a lack of fuel, a shortage of workers and a lack of communication and technology.
Seaports are required to address environmental issues, including sea-level rise and upgrades to infrastructure for resiliency, through their master planning process. Florida’s seaports also have an innovative agreement to assist damaged ports with resources so they can connect and share information together, as well as with state and federal agencies.
Port Everglades, for example, is working to identify the most vulnerable infrastructure that could be disrupted due to water intrusion and is surveying elevations of connection boxes. These connections will then be waterproofed to prevent disruption.
Ports are critical in post-disaster recovery, and Florida ports have worked with state and local governments and utility providers to harden electrical infrastructure, to build power redundancy, and to receive priority power restoration. To ensure port recovery and broader access to fuel, Florida ports are also collaborating with the Coast Guard and industry partners to invest in infrastructure to assist in fuel supply and distribution.
The report also provided recommendations for port resiliency, including:
- Conduct regular simulations or scenarios of critical incidents to improve response.
- Ensure access to generators and fuel for generators stored at heights above storm surge areas.
- Backup all technology and communications systems in the cloud and off-site to gain access to critical documentation.
- Have agreements in place to secure water, shower and toilet providers in advance of an incident. Also have bedding supplies and access to food and water for employees.
- Procure and test satellite phones or two-way radios for a backup form of communication should cell towers fail.
- Move truck, rail and other cargo to temporary safe locations, if possible, before an event.
- Have a plan in place for a labor shortage to handle disruptions in cargo movement.
- Work with tenants to review resiliency or continuity of operations plans for businesses on port property to coordinate response and recovery.
Doug Wheeler is President and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.
“The Invading Sea” is part of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.