Bridge Collapse Ripples Include Hits to U.S. Trade of Wood, Local Jobs and Businesses

By Rachel Lerman, Hannah Dormido, Jeanne Whalen, Luis Melgar and Laris Karklis

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday cut off access to much of the city’s port — causing a suspension of vessel traffic that will disrupt a key trade lane and threaten to further tangle already-stressed supply chains.

The Port of Baltimore was the 17th largest in the nation by total tons in 2021 and an important artery for the movement of wood, paper, paperboard, autos, construction machinery and coal. It handled 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo worth nearly $81 billion in 2023, according to Maryland data, and creates more than 15,000 jobs.

Note: not seasonally adjusted. Vehicles excluding railways and tramways. Nickel, aluminium, paper and wood include derivatives of those commodities

Source: Census Bureau

On Tuesday, the Port of Baltimore said that vessel traffic would be suspended in and out of the port until further notice, but trucks would still be processed in its terminals.

“Baltimore’s not one of the biggest ports in the United States, but it’s a good moderate-sized port,” said Campbell University maritime historian Sal Mercogliano. It has five public and 12 private terminals to handle port traffic.

Baltimore port’s suspension is “one more disruption in an already-stressed system” for the global supply chain, said Abe Eshkenazi, chief executive of the Association for Supply Chain Management. Cargo will now have to be rerouted to other ports, which means figuring out where there is enough capacity to move things.

Coal shipments will need to be rerouted to other ports, Kpler’s Ellender said. And Ryan Petersen, chief executive of the logistics company Flexport, posted on X that the company currently has 800 containers on a slew of ships heading for the port that will need to be rerouted, likely to Philadelphia or Norfolk.

The biggest problem Steenhoek sees from Baltimore’s shuttering is the knock-on effect to other ports. Many ships stuck in the port were destined to make stops at other U.S. ports to load and unload goods before heading overseas, a complicated logistical dance now scrambled by the bridge collapse.

“It just shows how you throw a wrench in the supply chain and the impact is not just confined to that one port,” Steenhoek said.

Source: Washington Post