Event: Superstorm Sandy, 2012

In 2012, the Port of New York was hit by superstorm Sandy, which inundated most of the port area and surroundings.

Causes and impact17

The main factor in the disruption at the Port of New York was superstorm Sandy. The storm caused 280 deaths (out of the port community) and major damages to the port, its surrounding areas, and related supply chains. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson railway system was completely inundated and threatened by saltwater corrosion. The storm caused severe damage to port operations and facilities. A total of 25,000 shipping containers were diverted to other ports. The port remained closed for a week. Freezing temperatures during the event compounded the impact of the superstorm Sandy. Operations resumed eight days after the storm. The severity of the disruption extended beyond the length of the storm as it was followed by fuel shortages, extended power outages, and the persistence and amplification of inland congestion.

Response and mitigation measures

Pre-disaster preparation and emergency plans trials, with the engagement of the entire port community and stakeholders, enabling an effective, prompt deployment of emergency interventions in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Longer-term mitigation efforts to minimize the damage from future storms included a $59 million package for about 200 flood-reduction projects (e.g. building barriers, stockpiling of sandbags, and moving equipment to higher ground).

Lessons learned and good practice18

  • Promote effective coordination between port stakeholders (Ryan-Henry J. and Becker A., 2020) to ensure prompt recovery and resilience. In the case of the Port of New York, this was facilitated by a network of relationships and trust between port partners built over many years in committees as well as on lessons learned from past experiences (e.g. Hurricane Irene in 2011).
  • Aim to cluster stakeholders and define their roles through joint pre-event preparation, e.g. prior planning and rehearsing/drills/exercises. This can speed up joint actions (Verschuur J. et al 2020).
  • Establish clear communication systems (known codes and decision-making criteria) to be used by all parties and facilitate collective operational agility.
  • Strengthen institutional relationships.



17 This section also draws upon Smythe T. (2013).
18 This section also draws upon University Transportation Research Center (2013).