Baltimore bridge collapse impacts I-95 shipping, rail, trucking and Port of Baltimore

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, after it was hit by a container ship, will disrupt shipping, rail, trucking, the Port of Baltimore, and the Mid-Atlantic region served by the I-95 highway corridor, according to one shipping executive.

The executive who spoke to AJOT and asked not to be identified said: “At this point, nobody knows how long the Port of Baltimore will be closed. It could be weeks — it could be longer. There are still containers in the water, and they have to be retrieved. There is still the damage assessment to the ship to be taken into account. There is also the environmental impact. Right now, we are scrambling to redirect our ships either to Norfolk or to New York/New Jersey and our concern is whether there is sufficient capacity to take the redeployments…”

The shipping executive went on to say: “In terms of the traffic, the loss of this bridge is huge: There's a lot of vehicles that cross that bridge a day. There is also the impact on trucking and especially on hazmat cargoes that were transiting the bridge that may not use the tunnels. Amazon has a warehouse down there (near the Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal) ... and their ability to move truckloads to and from their facility will be impacted. Rail, in and out of Baltimore, will be impacted, both the CSX and the Norfolk Southern.”

The shipping executive concluded that it may be time to look at waterborne alternatives to trucking along the I-95 corridor: “The probability of losing a bridge that supports truck and … car traffic along the I-95 corridor is unprecedented and we do not have good alternatives.”

Ripple Effect of Bridge Disaster

Container shipping expert Lars Jensen, Principal at Vespucci Maritime, noted the impact on shipping in a series of LinkedIn posts today: “This is a major disaster and will create significant problems on the US East Coast for US importers and exporters. The 10,000 TEU vessel “Dali” operated by Maersk on the 2M service between Asia and USEC (US East Coast) has collided with the bridge in Baltimore causing a collapse. The bridge collapse will mean that for the time being it will not be possible to get to the container terminals - or a range of the other port terminals - in Baltimore. In 2023 the terminals handled 1.1 million TEU. This is some 21,000 TEU per week which now has to be routed through other ports in the region. Additionally, this means the cargo already gated into the Baltimore terminals would have to either wait an unknown period for the sea lane to reopen or be gated back out and shifted to a different port. The “Dali” was operating on the 2M service called TP12 by Maersk and Empire by MSC. Additionally, Zim also has slots on the service which they have named the ZBA service.”

Lars Jensen, Principal at Vespucci Maritime

Jensen also noted that there are ships trapped at Baltimore as well as ships that will need to be re-routed: “The ‘MSC Alina’ was just about to call Baltimore but has now turned around. It operates on MSC’s Turkiye/Greece to USA service. It just came from Norfolk and next port of call according to the proforma schedule is Savannah, although … it might be going back to Norfolk first. As per the Port of Baltimore the next container vessels scheduled to call the Port are on Thursday and are “MSC Kumsal”, “Maersk Gironde” and “Triton”, followed by “Colombia Freedom” on Friday and then “Dubai Express”, “Atlantic Sea” and “CCNI Andes” on Saturday. Shippers with import cargo on those vessels due for a Baltimore discharge as well as those who have booked export cargo to be loaded on those vessels would need to make alternate arrangements …
Multiple merchant vessels are now “trapped” in the Port of Baltimore. None of those are container vessels, but amongst the larger vessels now unable to get out are the bulk carriers “JY River”, “Klara Oldendorff” and “Phatra Naree” and the vehicle carrier “Carmen” in addition to a a range of general cargo vessels as well as some naval vessels.”

Redirecting a Challenge

Jensen noted that re-directing ships and cargoes will be challenging:

“Looking at (the Port of) Baltimore's Q4 2023 volume handling in TEU a shift to Norfolk and NY/NJ would mean a 10% increase in volume handling in those two ports compared to their own volume handling in Q4 2023. But in 2022 Norfolk handled 12% more volume than they did in 2023. And in 2022 NY/NJ handled 21% more volume than they did in 2023. Hence from this perspective it appears the Norfolk and NY/NJ (ports) combined does have sufficient capacity to take the spill-over from Baltimore. Of course, not without some disruptive effects as none of this is pre-planned into the supply chains and hence some bottleneck effects and delays are to be anticipated in the short term. For Baltimore and (the) immediate surrounding (area), the impact on supply chains will of course be extremely large. Note my expertise is on containers and not on bulk and car carriers where it seems the impact might be much larger than on containers.”

Jensen noted that Home Depot, which has warehousing in Baltimore will be impacted: “The bridge collapse and hence associated inaccessibility of the container port is likely to have (an) impact on Home Depot. They have in 2020-2021 completed a 1.5 million square foot facility in Sparrows Point in the vicinity of the port. When it opened Home Depot’s own press release called this “[...] a key hub for The Home Depot's delivery and supply chain strategy … The facility has on-premise rail access which is great in connection with the port, but as long as port access is not feasible this leaves the distribution center without any efficient means of receiving containerized cargo from large vessels apart from moving it overland from Norfolk or NY/NJ.”

According to the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) the “I-695 Outer Loop closed at MD 10 (exit 2) and Inner Loop closed at MD 157/Peninsula Expressway (exit 43). Harbor Crossings alternate routes will be I-95 or I-895 tunnels. Vehicles transporting hazardous materials prohibited in tunnels should use the western section of I-695 around tunnels. This includes vehicles carrying bottled propane gas in excess of 10 pounds per container (maximum of 10 containers), bulk gasoline, explosives, significant amounts of radioactive materials.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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