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Key Bridge collapse: Port of Baltimore facts and figures; all six publicly-owned terminals affected

Idled cranes at the Port of Baltimore are seen on April 1, a week after the container ship Dali hit a support of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing a catastrophic collapse. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)

Posted on April 10, 2024

Nearly two weeks after a cargo ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse, one of the East Coast’s busiest ports remains largely cut off from the seas.

The reach of the Port of Baltimore is vast, and it could lose an estimated $15 million per day while closed. In the meantime, two smaller, temporary channels for tug, barge and small vessel access have opened, with the Army Corps of Engineers aiming to restore normal access by the end of May. State and local officials also have worked to offer relief to those impacted by the closure.

From its inland location to it being the leading U.S. port for the shipment of cars, here are five facts that help explain the significance of the Port of Baltimore.

The Port of Baltimore has six public and 33 private terminals.

A variety of state-owned and private marine terminals make up the port. The Maryland Port Administration operates six public terminals: Seagirt Marine Terminal, Dundalk Marine Terminal, South Locust Point Marine Terminal, North Locust Point Marine Terminal, Hawkins Point, and the Masonville/Fairfield Marine area. All six are located up the Patapsco River from the bridge wreckage, which prevents safe passage for all but smaller vessels.
All six state-owned marine terminals are blocked by the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Source: Maryland Port AdministrationCreated with Datawrapper

There are 33 private terminals, according to port administration spokesperson Richard Scher. They include the Curtis Bay Coal and Ore Pier, Consol Coal Pier, Chesapeake Terminal, Atlantic Terminal, Rukert Terminals, TradePoint Atlantic and Canton Marine Terminal, according to the 2023 Economic Impact of the Port of Baltimore in Maryland report. These terminals handle such cargo as sugar, gypsum, metals and salt. The Tradepoint Atlantic terminal, located at Sparrows Point, is the only terminal in the Port of Baltimore that still can be accessed by incoming ships.

The six state-owned terminals generated over half of the annual revenue of port cargo activity in 2023 at $2.1 billion, the economic report also said.

The Seagirt Marine Terminal, where the Dali departed from, is known for containerized cargo, shipped in colorful, truck-sized metal boxes that can be readily switched between ships, trucks and railcars. Seagirt is capable of handling 1.5 million 20-foot units of containers a year, according to Ports America.

The Port of Baltimore is closer to many major Midwestern metropolitan areas than other large ports on the East Coast.

From Baltimore’s port a third of the U.S. population can be reached overnight by truck, according to the Port of Baltimore Directory. The port also has the distinction of being closer to the Midwest than other East Coast ports. Among the East Coast’s busiest ports, Baltimore is the nearest one to half of the 20 most populous metro areas on or east of the Mississippi River, excluding the areas containing the ports themselves.

New York/New Jersey; Savannah, Georgia; Norfolk, Virginia; Baltimore; and Philadelphia are the five East Coast busiest ports by tonnage — each ranking within the nation’s top 25, according to a 2023 U.S. Department of Transportation’s report to Congress. New York/New Jersey was the busiest of those, ranking No. 4 in the country.

Nearly 20,000 direct jobs have been impacted by the closure of the port.

In 2023, 19,970 port jobs were considered direct positions — or those that wouldn’t exist without activities by the portOver 50,000 jobs altogether were attributed to the Port of Baltimore last year, according to the 2023 Economic Impact of the Port of Baltimore in Maryland report. Those include induced jobs such as positions at grocery stores patronized by port workers and indirect jobs such as repair technicians.

The number of direct jobs in 2023 was a 32% increase from 2017. Baltimore County had the highest number of direct port workers, with nearly a third of workers residing there. Over 60% of the direct jobs were at public terminals.

Residence of employees in Port of Baltimore direct jobs

Nearly a third of direct jobs in the Port of Baltimore are held by residents of Baltimore County. Direct jobs include those “most directly dependent” on the Port of Baltimore, like jobs with terminal operators, trucking firms or marine construction companies.

Source:The 2023 Economic Impact of the Port of Baltimore in MarylandGet the dataCreated withDatawrapper

Automobiles are the most imported commodity in the port.

The Port of Baltimore ranked 18th in the country in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2023 report to Congress for total tonnage of imports and exports. The port’s public and private terminals imported and exported over 55 million tons of international and domestic cargo last year. That’s equal to about 10 times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The Port of Baltimore is the leading port in the U.S. for shipping and receiving cars across the world. Around 847,000 cars were imported or exported through the port in 2023. In the same year, vehicles and vehicle parts were both the most imported and exported commodity in value.

Value of imports in the Port of Baltimore

Import and export monthly tonnage for public terminals has nearly doubled since 1998.

The six state-owned terminals, which are all blocked from receiving or sending ships due to the bridge wreckage, have nearly doubled in tonnage of annual imports and exports since the late 1990s. The increase has been driven largely by more tons of containers being imported and exported through the port.

In the same time period, the size of cargo ships has drastically increased. First-generation ships could only carry up to 1,000 20-foot equivalent units of containers. The 20-foot unit, or TEU, is used to measure containers, which often are 40 feet long, but can be 20 feet or as long as 53 feet. Since 1996, the maximum capacity of some of the largest ships has nearly quadrupled, now reaching 25,000 TEUs. The Dali, the cargo ship that struck the Key Bridge, had a capacity of 10,000 TEUs.

After containers, ro/ro cargo — wheeled vehicles that are rolled on and off of ships — is responsible for the next most tonnage in Baltimore.

Containers make up most of the Port of Baltimore’s public terminal’s import and export tonnage

Since the late 1990’s, containers have made up most cargo tons imported and exported by the six state-owned terminals.

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