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Surviving Sandy: A client's first-hand encounter

Reinauer Transportation is a leader in petroleum and chemical transportation, headquartered in Staten Island, New York, one of the hardest hit areas during Superstorm Sandy. One year after the storm hit their building complex, Bert Reinauer, Vice President / Treasurer of Reinauer Transportation talked to Allianz about how the company secured their people, boats and offices and maintained their operations while the storm was raging outside.  

Your company owns a fleet of over 75 vessels but also offers maritime construction, barge and towing services. How was your business affected by Superstorm Sandy?

Bert Reinauer: Our offices and maintenance and repair operations all need to be on to the waterfront so there is no way to avoid what Mother Nature sends our way. With Superstorm Sandy on October 29, 2012, a five-foot wall of water came in and sent water throughout our entire building complex. Especially the first floors were severely impacted. We had to rip out all carpeting, and all of our files and archives got destroyed. 

How were your employees affected?

The majority of our employees work on this level so we were forced to find other ways to continue with our operations. At one point, we had eight colleagues sharing one table – we called the set-up “bullpens” – with an array of phones and computers. We were extremely fortunate that none of our crew members were injured and not one of our vessels suffered any damage.

When was the first time you heard about the storm and what were your major concerns?  

Everyone in the northeast was well aware of the storm and the potential magnitude the week before October 29th. We knew we had to get our boats secured as they were our first, but not our only priority. We then had to make certain that we could raise our office equipment and computers to the highest levels. When the adjusters came, they could readily see all our efforts to mitigate the damage.

How long did it take your company to be up and running again?

Our operations department is located on the second floor, so as soon as our backup generators became operational, we lost no time in regaining communication with our vessels. Our company was never off the grid; we continued to operate 24 hours a day thanks to these emergency generators. The rest of the buildings suffered significant damage, and it took considerably longer to get them repaired. After Sandy there was a high demand for contractors and repair services. We had our 75 staff back in their offices and everything refurbished by the end of January 2013.

Were you affected by the widespread power outages after the storm?

Our maintenance and repair department did an outstanding job in preparing for the storm, and we were only out of power for a short period. Our emergency generators kicked in, and with the loaded gasoline barge that was anchored by our dock, we were fortunate enough to have access to fuel through the good graces of our customer, who we reimbursed for the fuel. I guess we’re in the right business...

Did you have a business continuity plan in place before the storm? If so, was it effective?

We had a business continuity plan in place and it proved to be very effective, but plans can only do so much. We salvaged a tremendous amount of machinery by moving equipment upstairs but still our overall claim amounted to two million dollars.

After a major catastrophe you always have to look at how things were handled and what you can do to prevent or mitigate damage in the future. We are doing that, but due to the nature of our business, we will continue to be at the waterfront.

Since you transport fuel along the east coast, how were you impacted by the closure of the New York harbor?  

The United States Coast Guard shut down the New York Harbor for several days. During that time our vessels were dispatched to safe harbors ranging from the North Hudson River, our mooring facility in Erie Basin, our dock in Staten Island and others. We had a loaded barge at our main dock in Staten Island that miraculously remained safe and secure during the entire storm. It had loaded around 108,600 barrels of gasoline, and we received permission from our client to use some of that gasoline (of course we paid for it). As soon as the US Coast Guard gave us permission, we moved the barge to the areas where gasoline was desperately needed, but that took some time since there was a lot of debris in the water, and some terminals were not operational.

How does Sandy continue to impact your business a year after?

Just the other day I was watching the news and saw the reports of those who still struggle with the aftermath of Sandy. It has to be heart-wrenching for those who continue to suffer. An observation I had was that we did not have to look to anyone else and did not have to wait on the government. We looked to Allianz, and our insurer met and exceeded our expectations with understanding, professionalism and compassion. And they did it all promptly which is what it’s all about.

What is your main takeaway from this experience?  

The morning after the hurricane I sent out a text message (there was no network or internet connectivity) to Art Moossmann, Chief Underwriting Officer Specialty at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, and our brokers Ron Sensenbach and Sherrie Boatman of AON about our concerns. Their response was immediate, and we were assured that we would be taken care of. This is the peace of mind that you need from an insurance company. It is essential that we as the client and the insurer both recognize the joint risk and relationship that must be established to be successful.