Port of Baltimore reopening to relieve congestion on U.S. east coast

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

The U.S. Corps of Engineers (USACE) says the Federal Channel at the Port of Baltimore is expected to reopen soon, as nearly all the wreckage from the Key Bridge collapse has been cleared.

“We remain confident we will have the Federal Channel fully restored in the next few days,” said Col. Estee S. Pinchasin, USACE, Baltimore District commander. “We’re using the same detailed process as when opening the three alternate channels and the Limited Access Channel. Once the wreckage is cleared, we will sweep the area with sonar, LIDAR and magnetometer, to investigate any high spots, ensuring there’s no hazard to navigation.

“We are going to be as thorough and disciplined as we have been since the beginning – we owe it to Baltimore and the Port, to turn over a safe navigation channel they can use with the greatest of confidence.”

Matt Castle, vice-president of global forwarding at C.H. Robinson, pointed out that small vessels have been able to access the channel since mid-May, and bookings for lager container ships are now being taken.

“The first to call will be the Ever Forever arriving Tuesday. After everything that’s happened, it’ll be a wonderful milestone for the port,” said Castle, adding that it could take until mid-July for regular, weekly sailings to resume. “In the meantime, we’ve been diverting our customers’ ocean freight primarily to New York/New Jersey and to Norfolk, Virginia, which has come at an elevated cost. We’ll be helping them return to the Port of Baltimore as soon as it’s practical to do so without disrupting their supply chains.”

Castle says New York/New Jersey has, for the most part, been able to absorb the extra cargo, but have experienced sporadic congestion. Norfolk, however, has been particularly congested for the past couple of months, so the reopening of the Port of Baltimore will help alleviate that.

“Some of the drayage carriers in the Baltimore market – the companies that specialize in short hauls to and from the port – shifted drivers and equipment to Norfolk as a result of all the diversions,” said Castle. “They are eager to get those back to Baltimore and resume normal operations. More imports will also mean more business for the long-haul carriers we work with in the Baltimore area. Most trucking companies are regional, and we’ve been helping them fill their trucks with loads from the spot market while waiting for their regular freight to return.”