Maryland: A Rising Tide Of Recovery

In Maryland, COVID-19 has not stopped the Port of Baltimore, where shipping volume continues to increase.

Led by outstanding increases in car and light truck volumes, the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore’s state-owned, public marine terminals continued to show strong recovery in March compared to figures from 2020 in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Autos, roll on/roll off farm and construction equipment and containers each had significant gains compared to their COVID-19 low points.

With 58,032 units in March 2021, autos and light trucks showed a remarkable 229 percent increase compared to its low point in May 2020 during the pandemic. The auto/light truck category also posted a month-over-month increase of 102.8 percent over February 2021, and a year-over-year increase of 13.6 percent from March 2020.

Port of Baltimore
(Photo: Ports America Chesapeake/John Wilhelm)

“Baltimore is coming back strong,” said Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) Executive Director William P. Doyle. “Consumers are buying; that’s evident from our car and container numbers. People have adjusted their purchasing habits toward e-commerce, and the Port of Baltimore is an e-commerce logistics hub that can help our customers take advantage of the many local distribution, fulfillment and sorting centers. We’ve also learned to respect and deal with COVID-19 impacts to our industry. We encourage our workforce—and the public—to get vaccinated.”

In addition to the tremendous increase in cars and light trucks, the Port of Baltimore handled 97,146 tons of roll on/roll off equipment in March, an increase of 97.6 percent in that category compared to its low point in June 2020. General cargo, with 983,829 tons, was up 34.1 percent compared to its June 2020 low, while container volumes, with 49,942 boxes, was up 5.3 percent against its June 2020 low.

Categories were up compared to February 2021 as well: In addition to the 102.8 percent increase posted by autos/light trucks, roll on/roll off was up 112 percent and containers were up 3 percent. The roll on/roll off category also posted a 20.2 percent year-over-year increase compared to March 2020, while general cargo was up 3.46 percent.

The Port continues to gain new business and increase business from existing customers. The Port has served 19 “ad hoc” ships—vessels diverted to Baltimore that were not on a regularly scheduled service call—since mid-July 2020, totaling more than 31,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) containers.

Additionally, a new multi-year contract with the Metsa Group of Finland and Logistec Corporation is consolidating Metsa’s Mid-Atlantic paper product volumes through Baltimore using carriers Spliethoff Group and Royal Wagenborg. The contract will generate hundreds of jobs. Metsa is bringing more than 370,000 tons of rolled paper to Maryland for products such as corrugated cardboard boxes and other e-commerce packaging, and is utilizing warehousing space that has been underused or vacant for years.

In April, dredging was completed for a second, 50-foot deep berth at the Seagirt Marine Terminal, which is managed under a public-private partnership (P3) between MDOT MPA and Ports America Chesapeake. Creation of the second deep berth involved removal of more than 465,000 cubic yards of sediment and will allow the terminal to handle two ultra-large ships simultaneously. Four additional Neo-Panamax cranes are scheduled to arrive this summer and will be operational later this year.

The growing container business accentuates the need for the planned expansion of Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel. The tunnel project will allow the tunnel to accommodate double-stacked rail cars moving cargo to and from the Port, and connect to rail lines up and down the East Coast. The project is benefiting from public-private investment from the federal government, Maryland, CSX and others. Construction to remake Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel to fit double-stacked container trains will begin this year and be completed in 2024. Berths at the Dundalk Marine Terminal are under reconstruction to accommodate heavy equipment.

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