Breaking Records at the Port of Baltimore
Analysts can’t predict with certainty what the effects of the new tariffs and possible trade war will be on U.S. Ports. The Wall Street Journal recently warned that the “tariff retaliation could cut shipping trade.”
But in the month prior to the tariffs, the Port of Baltimore enjoyed a bonanza, as auto makers scrambled to ship vehicles to the United States to pre-empt the higher tariffs.
The New York Times noted “a surge in vehicle exports and imports in May at the ports of Baltimore, Jacksonville, Florida; and Brunswick, Georgia—the three leading U.S. ports for automobile imports…23,000 more cars were unloaded than in the same month last year.” In Baltimore, exports were up 39 percent, the highest among the three leading ports.
It’s not surprising that any boom in the shipping world would reward the Port of Baltimore with a large share of the bounty.
The 312-year-old Port had its best quarter ever during the first quarter of 2018, with a record amount of general cargo and containers making their way through the public marine terminals. A total of 2,765,247 tons of general cargo crossed the piers—eight percent more than the first quarter of 2017.
The public marine terminals, managed by the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDT MPA), handled a record 10.7 million tons of general cargo (automobiles, light trucks, nearly 600,000 containers, roll-on/roll-off equipment, forest products, and breakbulk (individually loaded cargo, not in containers). The container cargo alone marked an 11 percent increase over 2016.
This world class Port’s strength and success make it a leading economic engine for the State of Maryland, creating more than 13,600 direct jobs and supporting more than 127,000 indirect jobs. This translates into $3 billion in personal wages and more than $300 million in state and local tax revenues.
What’s Behind the Success?
Baltimore sits at the mouth of the Patapsco River, near the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. The Port, says Donovan Murray, General Manager for Intermodal/Trade Development, is “strategically located in the Mid-Atlantic region. Its inland location makes it the closest Atlantic port to major midwestern population and manufacturing centers. It’s within a day’s reach of one-third of all U.S. households.”
What’s more, notes Donovan, the Port provides immediate access to the 6.8 million people living in the thriving Washington-Baltimore region. “That’s the nation’s fourth largest and one of the country’s wealthiest consumer markets,” he says. “Baltimore can boast of deepwater berths, direct access to interstate highways and two rail freight lines.”
Mother Nature has given the area a great start, but it is the people of the Port of Baltimore who have made it the fourth fastest growing port in North America. They are among the best in the business.
Because of its people, the Port is rated one of the most productive and secure ports in the nation. It’s consistently ranked as a high-efficiency port—a major factor in attracting shipping business. Baltimore longshoremen can move 75 containers on and off a ship in an hour, one of the best records in the nation.
Strategic Planning and Forward Thinking
When the expansion of the Panama Canal was completed last year, the planners and administrators of the Port made sure it was ready with the deep drafts, large cranes and intermodal connections needed to handle the increased super-size container traffic that would now be coming from Asia via the Canal.
There is also a new roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) service to facilitate the off-loading of cars, trucks, farm equipment, trailers and any cargo that can be loaded on and off the vessel on its own wheels. Baltimore is already the top-ranked U.S. port for handling Ro-Ro cargo.
A major public/private partnership between the MPA and the Seagirt Marine Terminal signed in 2009 established Ports America Chesapeake, which will operate the Seagirt Terminal under a 50-year lease. Ports America Chesapeake is investing $500 million in the project, creating a state-of-the-art maritime facility that will position Baltimore as one of only four U.S. East Coast ports with the capabilities to comfortably handle the latest “Super Post Panamax” cargo ships.
The funding will also provide $140 million to the state fund for highway, bridge and tunnel projects near the Port.
Another welcome addition to the Port of Baltimore neighborhood is Tradepoint Atlantic, the 3,100-acre redevelopment project at the site of the former Sparrows Point Steel Mill. Like the Port, Tradepoint Atlantic enjoys its location in close proximity to high-density population centers with multimodal access—rail, deep-water berths, roadway connections to industrial parks and interstate highways.
Because of its relationship with the Port of Baltimore and its growing auto import business, Tradepoint Atlantic provides a place for storage and deployment of the massive amount of cargo that passes through the Port.
“We provide a natural overflow to supplement container movement,” says Kerry Doyle, Chief Commercial Officer of Tradepoint Atlantic, “instead of the Port trying to find pockets of real estate here and there.”
It has recently received a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to make infrastructure improvements such as structural upgrades and design changes to facilitate the transfer of commodities, an overhaul of a barge berth, dredging and an upgrade in lighting and security.
The innovative environmental efforts at the Port are proving to be a winning strategy, resulting in progress and recognition as a leader in the field. Tapping new technologies as well as proven best practices, the Port has a solid record of improving water and air quality, solving flooding problems, engaging the community and extending its beautification efforts well beyond the Port’s property line.
The environmental engine has also reduced emissions, conserved energy, managed storm waste and opened wetlands. One of the Port’s environmental advances is an award-winning program for dredged material that has been used to rebuild long eroded islands, which can now serve as home to many species of wildlife.
It’s all about innovation—in the terminals; in the channels; in the cargo-handling equipment, technology and strategy; in the maritime environment; in all the enterprises that serve this vibrant, growing entity we call the Port of Baltimore. It’s state-of-the-art and ready for the future!