As congestion threatens economy, Port of Baltimore is adding more ships and running smoothly

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As other major U.S. ports experience congestion, Maryland’s Port of Baltimore is reportedly adding more container ships. 

Maryland Port Administration Executive Director Bill Doyle told WBAL-TV 11 on Wednesday that the city has added two new container ships, bringing the total of new ships to 21.

“We have many local distribution centers, an excellent truck and rail network and very skilled long-shore workers which all contribute to reasons why containers move efficiently through the Port of Baltimore,” he told the station.

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WBAL-TV 11 said that port officials reported its figures from August showed the number of containers rose by 12% year over year. 

In a September press release, the port announced the arrival of four new, fully electric and 450-foot-tall Neopanamax container cranes to service container ships.

The cranes, which weigh approximately 1,740 tons can extend to reach 23 containers across on a ship and lift 187,500 pounds of cargo. 

The cranes are part of a “significant expansion by Ports America Chesapeake at Seagirt to provide greater capacity and efficiency to handle anticipated increases in container volumes,” the release explained, noting that import and export demand for container cargo had substantially increased over the past year and that port congestion is at an “all-time high.”

Ships, cargo containers, and tractor trailers are seen at the Seagirt Marine Terminal in the Port of Baltimore on September 21, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland.  (RENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Business there compared to the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic has “recovered strongly” and compared to July 2020, autos and light trucks increased 20%, roll on and roll off farm and construction machinery was up 19%, breakbulk cargo was up 40% and paper coming through the Port increased 239% due to a new contract with Metsä Group and Logistec. 

“This is a great day for the Port of Baltimore and for the men and women who make up its outstanding workforce,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “The Port’s container business has grown impressively in recent years and is poised to grow even more with the addition of these new ultra-large cranes. Thanks to our MDOT MPA team and our partners at Port America Chesapeake, the Port of Baltimore is well-positioned to continue as one of Maryland’s prime economic engines.” 

Just two days before, the port announced the arrival of the first vessel of a new Southeast Asia, Vietnam and China container service from Maersk Line.

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While the port is not dealing with the same backups and delays as others in southern California, WBAL-TV 11 said that the city is still seeing many of the same supply issues.

Port delays, COVID-19 outbreaks and labor shortages have thrown a wrench in the exchange of products between Asia and North America as global economies attempt to meet surging demand and recover from the pandemic.

As of Monday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, there were 62 ships berthed and 81 waiting to dock and unload at the two ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, which account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the U.S. 

President Joe Biden announced a deal to expand operations at the Port of Los Angeles as consumer prices continue to climb and container ships are in gridlock, threatening the U.S. economy.

In addition, Walmart, FedEx, UPS, Target, Samsung and The Home Depot committed to unloading during off-peak hours.

The Wall Street Journal reported last weekend that global supply-chain delays were so severe that some of America’s biggest retailers have reported to chartering their own cargo ships to import goods.

Unloaded goods stranded on container ships had led to mass shortages and delays that have caused high inflation. 

A leap in consumer prices in September sent inflation up 5.4% from the same time in 2020, matching the largest increase since 2008. 

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the annual increase in the consumer price index matched readings in June and July as the highest in 13 years.

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Biden said that ports are just one part of the problem.

“We need to take a longer view and invest in building greater resiliency to withstand the kinds of shocks we’ve seen over and over, year in and year out, the risk of pandemic, extreme weather, climate change, cyberattacks, weather disruptions,” he said.

Fox Business’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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