ELIZABETH — Ships began unloading cargo again at the Port of New York and New Jersey a week after Hurricane Sandy, but a full return to normal operations could take a lot longer.
The massive ports complex suffered widespread damage to offices, equipment and infrastructure, said Dennis Lombardi, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s port commerce director. Overall, the ports are operating at about 70 to 80 percent capacity, he said.
It took about five days to restore power to Port Elizabeth, Lombardi said Friday in a presentation to a commercial real estate trade group. That has placed primary importance on seeking solutions, including developing a localized power system that runs on diesel or natural gas.
The Port Authority also is considering several other measures, including moving overhead electrical lines underground, upgrading electrical substations and fast-tracking improvements to drainage, sewage and fire protection systems.
The storm engulfed the ports “like a small tidal wave,” Lombardi said. The storm surge reached about 13 to 14 feet and winds hit 80 to 90 mph.
About a quarter of the trucks that regularly serve the ports were damaged, though not all were on port property. More than 700 cargo containers were damaged at one location when the water and high winds toppled stacks onto each other.
In the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, a Port Authority barge was left sitting halfway onto a berth. In Jersey City, a float used to transport rail cars broke in half. Cranes and cargo handling equipment were damaged, and 150 feet of railroad track washed out.
More than 50 vessels headed for New York and New Jersey had to be diverted to other ports after the storm, Lombardi said. Those carried about 15,000 cargo containers and 9,000 vehicles.