Puerto Rico is still struggling, ten months after Hurricane Maria caused severe devastation in September 2017. Significant parts of the island are still staggering towards recovery after one of the worst hurricanes in US history. It has been an uphill struggle mainly due to the lack of urgency on part of the Government and the lack of building and electrical material. CMC Logistics Corporation, Hellmann Partner in Puerto Rico, has also been hit by the storm. Jose Aybar, Managing Director of CMC Logistics, gives an insight on the aftermath of the hurricane and today’s situation on the island.
“Our office only had little structural damage, parts of a side wall were ripped off and some of the roof was gone, but thank God our equipment and our customer’s cargo have not been damaged. We had to work with generators as the whole island was without power. The communication structure was destroyed, so we were working from our mobile phones. Only one cell phone tower survived the hit and the carrier opened the signal for all carries to use. It was hard because you can imagine everyone with a mobile phone was trying to connect. Only a few spots had signal, so you had to be walking around until you got connected. It was worse for some of my colleagues, their family members, and also some customers. Some of them lost everything within just a few hours.
Accordingly, the first weeks after the hurricane were extremely rough, there were lines everywhere just to get the basics stuff that you need to survive. The lines to get gas were miles long, in the supermarkets the same and to top it off, most of them were running out of supplies and no commercial cargo was allowed in. Puerto Rico is an island that depends on the maritime industry as most if not all consumer goods like food, medicines, water and fuel are all imported. Due to a Cabotage Law from the 1920ies only US flagged ships were allowed in, which made international help impossible to reach the island.
As for our customers, our hands were tied. Our customers were desperate because we couldn’t assist them with their releases, deliveries, etc., this was mostly due to the part that FEMA had taken over the ports and containers were not allowed to be released. We had thousands of import containers just sitting at the port. But once the government stepped in they released some of the containers and we had to work on the release. We had to go back to doing everything manually. It was like in the “Old Shipping” times. Believe me: our old typewriter came in handy!
Still, there are nearly 200,000 families and about 16% of businesses without electrical power. Throughout the island there are only few working traffic lights or street lamps. Water services have been restored to most of the island, but there is still little to no service in some of the most remote mountain regions. According to the census, an estimated 135,000 Puerto Ricans have fled to the US because of the problems with the electricity/water and because of issues with the lack of insurance pay-outs for those left homeless by the storm.
Today, communication has been restored almost to its fullest. However, we are not 100% back in business because we have customers that are still without power or are still building their warehouses back. We also have customers that had to close their business completely because they lost everything. Our airport and ports – both cargo and cruise ships are fully operational. Tourism is also well on its track of recovery.
To my opinion I feel that we are one of the few blessed ones. I say blessed because even though we were hit by this HUGE storm, we are still standing. We have established new customer relations by helping the less fortunate and not trying to make a quick buck. And we always work hard to serve our customers to the fullest – with or without power, water, and internet. The only thing left to say is that CMC LOGISTICS CORP is open for business!”
“PUERTO RICO SE LEVANTA”
By Jose Aybar, Managing Director CMC Logistics Corporation
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