It's on us. Share your news here.

$8M grant will double auto capacity at Port of Baltimore’s only unaffected terminal

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police headquarters, near the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, on April 5, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland

Posted on April 11, 2024

BALTIMORE — During a visit Friday to the scene of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, President Joe Biden announced $8 million in federal funding to double the automotive shipping capacity at the Port of Baltimore’s only unaffected terminal.

The bridge collapse killed six people and has stranded 11 ships at the Maryland port, costing one roll-on/roll-off carrier as much as $10 million. It has cut off cargo vessel access to all but Tradepoint Atlantic, on the former Bethlehem Steel site at Sparrows Point, outside the blocked channel.

The funding for the expedited paving of 10 acres of new parking lots “will allow Sparrows Point to take on more ships,” the president said.

It’s critical near-term capacity for the Port of Baltimore, the nation’s busiest seaport for automotives, light trucks and other roll-on/roll-off cargo. The port’s shipping channel is expected to fully reopen by the end of May, according to an Army Corps of Engineers timeline.

Tradepoint expects to welcome six scheduled and nine redirected ships carrying 10,000 automobiles in the meantime. Five acres at the terminal have been set aside for storage of the mangled bridge material, according to the company.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the funding for the additional vehicle lots came through an increase to a Maritime Administration grant that previously had been awarded to Baltimore County.

“That can be used for additional cargo lay-down area,” Buttigieg said. “That work is already underway.”

Biden’s request to shippers: ‘Commit to stay’

The White House’s multimodal freight office convened a meeting of over 100 supply chain stakeholders the week of the disaster to assess cargo diversions and coordinate mitigations, Buttigieg said.

Diversions from Baltimore have already begun. Automakers and other shippers have announced plans to re-route shipments to other ports on the East Coast and elsewhere around the country. Baltimore port drivers have been sharing rate quotes for Norfolk and New York runs in a truck drivers’ Facebook group.

Amazon, The Home Depot, Domino Sugar and other companies that ship through the Port of Baltimore have committed to maintaining operations there and keeping workers on payrolls during the removal of the collapsed bridge from the shipping channel, Biden said.

“We call on every company at and around the port to do the same exact thing: commit to stay,” the president said during remarks within view of the destroyed bridge.

U.S. ro/ro leader eyes container growth

The president also highlighted other federal assistance, including $60 million in emergency relief funding he’d made available to Maryland in the aftermath of the disaster. He said the federal government would pay to rebuild the bridge with union labor and American steel — and “move heaven and earth” to do so as quickly as possible.

Speaking almost on behalf of the Baltimore port, and after pointing out his father was born and raised in the city, Biden sent a clear message to its shippers, carriers and other customers.

“We’re coming back,” he said. “We are coming back soon.”

Baltimore doesn’t handle nearly as much container volume as the Port of Virginia and the Port of New York and New Jersey, though local officials hope that could change with the planned expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel to accommodate double-stacked containers aboard CSX trains.

But the port’s 50-foot channel, farthest inland position on the East Coast and highway and rail connections have made it the busiest seaport in the country for autos, farm and construction equipment and other roll-on/roll-off cargo for more than a dozen years. The Port of Baltimore handled nearly 850,000 cars and light trucks last year.

Liability questions won’t delay response

The 984-foot container ship Dali struck a support pier and brought down the bridge after the ship appeared to lose power before dawn March 26. The crash is under federal investigation.

The ship’s owner, Grace Ocean, and manager, Synergy Marine, filed a legal petition to limit their liability to $43.7 million — the amount the ship is said to be worth right after the collision plus the revenue it was to receive for the cargo it was hauling, Legal Dive reported.

The tragedy has created uncertainty for the roughly 15,000 workers directly employed by the port and more than 140,000 others in trucking, warehousing and other related industries.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott echoed Biden’s desire not to wait for litigation to get the channel cleared and a new bridge project underway.

“Everyone has to be held responsible to the full existence of the law,” Scott said in an interview. “We’ll all be working in a partnership that makes sure that happens. But as you heard from my president, we can’t wait for that.”


It's on us. Share your news here.
Submit Your News Today

Join Our
Click to Subscribe