Business, Freight News, Sea

Port of Baltimore Rebounds From COVID-19

[ January 8, 2021   //   ]

Significant gains in cargo commodity volumes continued in November at the state-owned, public marine terminals of the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore compared to lows during the COVID-19 emergency. In the most recent monthly reporting period, general cargo, containers and roll on/roll off (farm and construction equipment) categories each posted double-digit gains for the fifth consecutive month, while autos/light trucks had a triple-digit increase for the fourth straight month compared to lows during the early months of the pandemic.

For the second consecutive month, containers and general cargo also had year-over-year monthly gains in 2020 compared to 2019.

“The thousands of dedicated men and women of the Port of Baltimore’s labor force have worked hard to make certain our supply chain remains open and goods safely reach consumers,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “The Port of Baltimore remains a leader in Maryland’s economic rebound, and these numbers give us optimism for continued strong recovery.”

November saw continued significant increases for autos/light trucks, general cargo, containers and roll on/roll off machinery compared to the COVID-19 low points in May and June.
• Autos/Light Trucks (48,159 units) +172.9% over low point in May 2020
• General Cargo (922,941 tons) +25.8% over low point in June 2020
• Containers (55,759 boxes) +17.7% over low point in June 2020
• Roll on/Roll off (58,669 tons) +18.8% over low point in June 2020

The November 2020 figure for containers represents a 11% increase compared to November 2019 and represents the second consecutive month for a year-over-year gain since the pandemic began. The figure for general cargo is a year-over-year increase of 4.1% compared to November 2019, also the second consecutive month for this growth. The Port’s recent volume includes 13 “ad hoc” ship calls since mid-July totaling nearly 18,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) containers. Ad hoc ships are vessels that were diverted to Baltimore that were not on a regularly scheduled service.

“Consumer demand is on the upswing, and our partners in the maritime industry see the Port of Baltimore as their best way to reach those consumers,” said Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Greg Slater. “The Port’s workforce has performed safely and with great efficiency throughout the pandemic, and that gives the industry tremendous confidence in our ability to bring critical goods to market.

One of the emerging trends for container cargo during the pandemic has been business and consumer reliance on e-commerce, and the Port’s growth in container volumes reflects this trend.

“The Port of Baltimore is well-equipped to handle the rise in e-commerce because of the number of distribution, fulfillment and sorting centers in close proximity,” said MDOT Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) Executive Director William P. Doyle. “We anticipate that long-term reliance on e-commerce will continue. While we are pleased with our November results, it’s important to remember we are still dealing with COVID-19 and that continues to make this a very unpredictable maritime trade environment.”

In addition to higher volumes, the Port continues to gain new and increased business from customers. Examples include:
• Three Nikola semi-truck prototypes that run on zero emission, battery-electric power arrived at the Port of Baltimore from Nikola’s production facility in Germany and will head to their Nevada facility for testing. A hydrogen fuel cell version which also offers zero emissions in addition to a greater mileage range between hydrogen refuels is expected in late 2021.

• Mercedes-Benz is processing 600 units a day, a higher amount than normal, and is scheduling 12-hour work shifts, seven days a week to keep up with consumer demand.

• The Port Administration also recently welcomed a maiden voyage of the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Tannhauser, the third High Efficiency Roll On/Roll Off vessel to join their fleet. This vessel offers a lot of energy-efficiencies including a low-load operation which reduces fuel consumption and a uniquely designed bow that delivers better wave-cutting abilities than conventional bows to reduce seagoing resistance and a greater energy demand.

As part of the Port’s continuing public-private partnership (P3) with partner Ports America Chesapeake, construction for a second, 50-foot deep berth at the Seagirt Marine Terminal is moving forward. The additional berth will allow the Port to handle two supersized ships simultaneously. Four new additional Neo-Panamax cranes are scheduled to arrive in April 2021 and be operational by summer. The growing container business also accentuates the need for the Howard Street Tunnel expansion project in Baltimore, which will accommodate double-stacked rail cars to move cargo from the Port. That project is benefiting from public-private investment between the federal government, the state of Maryland, CSX and others.