August 07, 2014

CNAS Experts: Social Capital was Key to Successful Port Recovery after Hurricane Sandy

By Linda A. Sturgis

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2014 – In the midst of hurricane season, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released a new report revisiting Hurricane Sandy, one of the most destructive storms in recent U.S. history, to shed light on the crucial efforts of those who recovered and restored the Port of New York and New Jersey. Authored by Commander Linda Sturgis, USCG, CNAS’ Senior Military Fellow; along with Dr. Tiffany Smythe; and Captain Andrew Tucci, USCG, "Port Recovery in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: Improving Port Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change" examines how private and public sector collaboration directly contributed to a safe and rapid port recovery.

Beginning with pre-storm preparations prior to Hurricane Sandy making landfall, the report presents a detailed narrative as a “voice from the field” along with striking photographs taken by the port community and first-responders during the port recovery process. Above all, the authors highlight that social capital – relationships built on cooperation and trust - within the port community in New York and New Jersey enabled the safe and rapid resumption of critical fuel and supplies throughout the storm-wrought region.

Download a copy of Port Recovery in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: Improving Port Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change.

Interactive graphic: See the report in graphic form here.
The authors affirm that efficient communication structures and clearly established plans were crucial to port operations before, during and after the storm. Based on lessons learned during the first-hand account of the port recovery process, the report offers pragmatic national-level recommendations to improve the resilience of the U.S. Marine Transportation System and ports in the event of extreme weather, industrial accidents or man-made disasters.

  • The U.S. government should establish an interagency port resiliency task force to aid strategic policy making.
  • Port communities must be provided with accurate and timely scientific data to effectively plan for current weather and long-term climate threats.
  • Fostering public-private relationships and trust is a cost effective port resiliency strategy that can be adapted to all types of hazards.

The authors reiterate that “in the era of climate change and ever-shrinking budgets” these reflections and recommendations from Marine Transportation System Recovery Unit's recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy “represent some of the most powerful and cost-effective investments the nation can make.”

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.


  • Linda A. Sturgis