Indian Transport & Logistics

Baltimore bridge collapse seen affecting port, economy

Vessel traffic into/out of Baltimore port suspended until further notice; six workers were missing and presumed dead

Baltimore bridge collapse seen affecting port, economy

Photo Credit: NTSB

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Vessel traffic into and out of the Port of Baltimore has been suspended until further notice, according to the latest update from the port authorities.

"This does not mean the Port of Baltimore is closed. Trucks are being processed within our marine terminals. At this time we do not know how long vessel traffic will be suspended. As soon as that is determined, we will provide an update. Until then please keep those involved in your prayers."

Six workers were missing and presumed dead after the Francis Scott Key bridge collapsed in Baltimore early on March 26, 2024 after a massive cargo ship DALI, crippled by a power loss, rammed into the structure, Reuters reported.

"With dive teams facing increasingly treacherous conditions in the darkened, wreckage-strewn waters, active search-and-rescue operations were suspended about 18 hours after the accident, U.S. Coast Guard and Maryland state police officials said."

Jennifer Homendy, Chair, National Transportation Safety Board announced that the federal agency would be leading the investigation into the crash and collapse with the help of the Coast Guard.

Homendy added a team of 24 — including experts in nautical operations, human performance and engineering — will begin looking into the incident and collect information on the vessel, including obtaining recorders on the ship, CNN reported.

“We are standing back to allow the Coast Guard and search and rescue to continue search and rescue operations while we gather information from the command post.”

(Video Credit: National Transportation Safety Board)

MSC, Maersk drop Baltimore calls
MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company and Maersk announced suspension of services to Baltimore after the bridge collapse, according to the latest updates.

"We can confirm that the container vessel DALI, involved and operated by Maersk on the Empire service, was carrying MSC customer cargo," says a statement from MSC. "We are expecting substantial delays to cargo aboard the vessel and currently standing on the quay in Baltimore.

"Further to the port authority’s closure of the port, we also have no choice but to omit Baltimore from all our services for the foreseeable future until the passage to port is reopened and declared safe. We expect this to take several months and all MSC customer cargo will be rerouted and discharged at alternative ports in the meantime."

Maersk, in its statement, says: "We can confirm that the container vessel DALI  is owned by Grace Ocean, and operated by Synergy Group. It is time chartered by Maersk and is carrying Maersk customers’ cargo. No Maersk crew and personnel were onboard the vessel.

"Due to the damage to the bridge and resulting debris, it will not be possible to reach the Helen Delich Bentley port of Baltimore for the time being. In line with this, we are omitting Baltimore on all our services for the foreseeable future, until it is deemed safe for passage through this area.

"For cargo already on water, we will omit the port, and will discharge cargo set for Baltimore in nearby ports. From these ports, it will be possible to utilise landside transportation to reach the final destination instead."

Biden admin promises all help
U.S. President Joe Biden has promised all federal help and tweeted: "The people of Baltimore can count on us to stick with them every step of the way, until the port is reopened and Francis Scott Key bridge is rebuilt. We're not leaving until it's done."

Major impact on local port, operations
The incident involving the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland is expected to have a significant impact on the local port and shipping operations while its effect on the overall US economy remains relatively limited, according to the latest update from Container xChange.

"Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is a stark reminder of the fragility of our infrastructure and the critical need for resilience in the face of unexpected events,” says Christian Roeloffs, Co-Founder and CEO, Container xChange, an online global container logistics platform, based in Hamburg, Germany.

“As we navigate the aftermath, we are reminded that the container logistics industry centres around the critical need for robust risk management and resilience in supply chain operations. It highlights the importance of contingency planning, diversified routing options, and the integration of real-time tracking and analytics to mitigate the impacts of unforeseen events. This incident serves as a reminder that infrastructure vulnerabilities can lead to disruptions, and being prepared with flexible, adaptive strategies is essential for maintaining continuity in the face of challenges.”

While the full extent of the impact is yet to be determined, the collision is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the Port of Baltimore and its role in the regional and national economy, the update added.

"The port is a crucial gateway for specialised cargo and bulk handling, serving as a key link in many supply chains. Delays in cargo movement could lead to inventory shortages, affecting businesses that rely on timely deliveries like the automotive industry which requires assemblies coming from different parts of the world.

"End consumers could potentially experience delays and price increases for certain products as a result of the bridge collapse as it could take weeks, if not months, to resume operations at the port. Products that rely on timely delivery, such as perishable goods or time-sensitive materials, could be particularly affected."

With more than 40 ships remaining inside the port and at least 30 others signalling their destination as Baltimore, the incident has disrupted the movement of containers, the update added. "As Baltimore is one of the smallest container ports on the Northeastern seaboard, handling 265,000 containers in the fourth quarter of last year, the flow of containers may be redirected to larger ports such as the Port of New York and New Jersey. This redirection could result in increased congestion and delays at these ports, affecting the timely delivery of goods and potentially leading to inventory shortages."

The port generates nearly $3.3 billion in total personal income and supports over 15,000 direct jobs with an additional 139,000 jobs connected to port work. The suspension of port activities could result in financial hardships for businesses and individuals dependent on port-related activities, the update added.

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