Steamship lines provide home runs for Port of Baltimore
Port of Baltimore secures new steamship services. The Baltimore Orioles focus on hitting home runs to score and so does the Maryland Port Administration (MPA). This year MPA executives can claim they’ve hit two long balls. Maersk returned service to the Port of Baltimore after an absence of nine years in February. In June, CMA CGM began service to the port. Maersk is the largest steamship company in the world and enjoys a leading 15% market share of the global container business. CMA CGM ranks as the third-largest container shipping company in the world. With Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Evergreen Line in the mix, this means the port is now home to the four largest containership operators in the world. Today Maersk operates three weekly container services involving the Port of Baltimore, meaning it will bring to the port an estimated 31,000 new containers per year. Maersk’s Far East – Empire Service via the Suez (TP12) calls on the inbound: Shanghai, Ningbo, Kaohsiung, Chiwan, Hong Kong, Yantian, Singapore, Salalah, Newark, Norfolk, then Baltimore. On the outbound the rotation is Newark, Norfolk, Baltimore, Salalah, Columbo, Tanjung Pelepas, Ningbo, Qingdao, and Busan. Its Mediterranean – MEDUSEC Service (TA5) calls westbound: Gioia Tauro, Naples, Leghorn, La Spezia, Genoa, Valencia, Algeciras, Sines, Newark, Boston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Savannah, and Charleston. On the eastbound it routes: Newark, Boston, Baltimore, Norfolk, Savannah, Charleston, Algeciras, Valencia, Gioia Tauro, Naples, Leghorn, La Spezia, Genoa, and Sines. The North Europe services – NEUATL2 Service (TA2) goes westbound: Bremerhaven, Felixstowe, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Le Havre, Newark, Baltimore, and Norfolk; eastbound Baltimore, Norfolk, Newark (double call), Bremerhaven, Felixstowe, Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Le Havre. “We are pleased to have Maersk as another partner as we continue to grow our container business,” comments Joseph M. Greco, MPA director for Intermodal/Trade Development. Regarding CMA CGM, the carrier added Baltimore to its Liberty Solo service. The rotation is Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Le Havre, New York, Baltimore, Charleston, and back to Rotterdam. The service involves four vessels of 1800-2000 nominal capacity fully operated by CMA CGM. With the expansion to the Panama Canal slated to open next year, East Coast seaports are in steep competition to attract major steamship lines to their terminals. “The addition of Maersk Line gives the Port even more momentum going forward as we await the completion of the Panama Canal expansion and the arrival of larger ships,” said Maryland Governor Hogan in a MPA press release. Currently, the Port of Baltimore is only one of two seaports on the US East Coast capable of accommodating post-panamax steamships. Greco points out that Evergreen altered their NUE service in July 2014 for more aggressive transit times and allocation of vessels. “It’s only other import call [on the East Coast] is Charleston,” he says. For exports, the service continues to New York to load cargo. Greco reveals that MPA expects additional changes with Evergreen with the expansion of the Panama Canal. Attractive Factors Driving Maersk and CMA CGM back to the Port of Baltimore were a number of factors - most notably Baltimore’s high demand for products due to its large and affluent consumer base, and the efficiencies of Seagirt Marine Terminal. While nothing is new, efficiencies at Seagirt have brought notice from the industry. “The fact we are doing 40 container moves per hour on each vessel, and 50-minute truck turn times for a double move (exports/empties in and imports out) is really important to the supply chain,” Greco stresses. Equipment at Seagirt Marine Terminal includes 11 cranes, four of which are super post-panamax, capable of reaching 22 containers across a ship. Along with a 50-foot-deep channel and 50-foot-deep container berth, Baltimore is in a favorable, competitive position to accommodate some of the largest ships in the world today. These aspects are especially highlighted when carriers consider congestion issues that cause delays for vessels and container deliveries at competing ports north and south of Baltimore. “We continue to be very consistent and dependable in the services we provide and have a positive effect on the supply chain,” Greco maintains. Making the port so efficient is the holistic approach to the port’s attributes: equipment, cranes, terminal yard design, and truck movements. “Everything is consolidated at Seagirt Marine Terminal,” Greco states. “We don’t have fractured terminals throughout the port. The majority - if not all of our containers - are moving over Seagirt.” Add to this Seagirt’s terminal operator, Ports America Chesapeake, which has invested significantly into the facility. “They believe in continuing to invest in technology,” Greco says. A particular plus are bi-monthly meetings with port stakeholders: cargo owners, ocean carriers, truckers, terminal operators, etc. Greco, who is the meeting co-chairman, describes to AJOT that during the meetings stakeholders talk collectively about issues and the areas in which MPA can improve. “This includes state-of-the-art equipment, good operating practices, and technology,” he says. “It’s a holistic approach where all stakeholders understand that improving the environment benefits all.” While other ports around the country are now beginning to hold such meetings, Greco points out, “For us, it’s not a new phenomenon.” Terminal Improvement Currently, a number of improvements are ongoing at Port of Baltimore terminals. At Dundalk Terminal, a berth is being reconstructed that involves structure repairs. MPA is also working three different concepts for an over-dimensional gate to facilitate the growth of project, break bulk and ro-ro movement via truck and reduce costs. “It would provide permitting and police escorts given the location of the gate,” Greco says. Additional dredging of Seagirt’s turning basin has just been completed to aid navigation of 14,000 TEU vessels calling the terminal. “We already have received positive feedback from Maersk and MSC regarding future business based on these improvements,” he says. Also at Seagirt, four additional rubber tyre gantry cranes (RTG) are being added. In addition, Ports America Chesapeake is making major investments at Seagirt’s main gate that will increase the number of inbound lanes from 8 to 12, thereby increasing speed and efficiency. Included is RFID technology and weigh-in motion scales so that trucks can keep rolling. “The weigh-in-motion scales will allow for additional volume growth and maintain and increase efficiencies,” he says. Additional lanes are being added on the outbound side as well. The improvements are expected to be completed by first quarter of 2016. On the other side of the harbor, rail projects are happening at Masonville/Fairfield Marine Terminal where a new $22 million berth opened to load and unload cars and trucks off the vessels. “We will introduce rail on that berth to allow us to redirect, load and discharge project cargo on and off the vessels,” Greco explains. “We are also constructing a new rail machinery yard at Masonville, which line ups well with CSX.” Intermodal Developments Despite its pluses, intermodal remains one of the port’s weak points. The Howard Street Tunnel, currently the biggest clearance impediment for double stack service, is the restricting factor on the CSX south routing. MPA and CSX also have agreed to enter into a joint study to re-evaluate the Howard Street Tunnel. A consultant to do the study has not yet been identified. “The Howard Street Tunnel has been plaguing us for many years. I’m not sure what the study will turn up,” he says. “We are interested in seeing if there are any new alternatives to provide clearance needed for double stack out of Seagirt.” On the northern routing with Norfolk Southern for the Northeast Corridor the commuter trains will not allow double stack. “These have been limiting factors for us for many years,” Greco comments. However, some positive changes around intermodal rail are starting to occur. MPA is currently negotiating for a new operating structure at the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) that will bring new efficiencies and cost reductions. The State of Maryland has also created an intermodal rail incentive fund that MPA plans to introduce before the end of the year. “The incentive fund will provide a financial savings to the ocean carriers that we believe will give us rate structure equality with other competing ports that have double stack capability,” Greco explains. Other news: There’s been positive feedback from recent International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance (ILA – USMX) meetings on the possibility of Master Contract extension to provide labor stability. “This is critical as our container business has grown, as it has elsewhere on the East Coast,” Greco comments. Combining both the public and private marine terminals, the Port of Baltimore had a record year in 2014 and saw 29.5 million tons of international cargo cross its docks last year at a value of nearly $53 billion.