The added capacity from the second-deep berth accentuates the need for the Howard Street Tunnel project in Baltimore, which will expand the 126-year-old tunnel to accommodate double-stacked rail cars moving cargo to and from the Port. The tunnel project is also benefitting from a public-private investment between the federal government, Maryland, CSX and others. Pending completion of a public comment period through March 30 and final National Environmental Policy Act approval, CSX will complete final engineering and permitting, with construction expected late this year.
“The Port of Baltimore has been a critical link in Maryland’s supply chain during the pandemic, and we appreciate Governor Hogan’s visit to recognize its role in the state’s economic recovery,” said MDOT Secretary Greg Slater. “Our dedicated workers and the partnerships we have at the Port and for the Howard Street Tunnel project are forging a clear path for growth in jobs and Maryland’s overall economy.”
As both the berth dredging and tunnel projects advance, the Port’s latest figures from February show cargo and other categories with impressive rebounds from COVID-19 lows last year. Two categories achieved year-over-year gains compared to pre-pandemic numbers in February 2020, with containers up 2.8% and general cargo up 6.2%.
When compared to low points last May and June due to COVID-19 impacts, the February numbers for autos/light trucks were even more significant. The cars and light trucks category saw 30,183 units in February, an increase of 72.8% over a low point in May 2020. Containers, with 48,521 boxes, were up 2.3% against its low point in June, and the general cargo category, which includes all main public terminal commodities – autos/light trucks, containers, forest products and roll on/roll off farm and construction equipment – was up 10.9%.
The Port’s rolled paper business also got a lift in February with the arrival of the first ship under a contract signed last year with major international paper producer Metsa Group of Finland and Logistec Corporation. February rolled paper, with 70,720 tons, was up 102.4% year-over-year from February 2020 The Metsa contract will generate hundreds of jobs and increase its footprint at the Port, utilizing warehousing structures that have been underused or vacant for years. Metsa is bringing more than 370,000 tons of rolled paper to Maryland, used to produce materials such as corrugated cardboard boxes and other e-commerce packaging.
“Through February we continue to see very good trends for our key cargos,” said MDOT MPA Executive Director William P. Doyle. “New car purchases remain strong and our containers continue to perform very well due in large part to our e-commerce advantages that include being located near so many distribution, fulfillment and sorting centers. We also welcomed the first ship under our new Metsa and Logistec contract which will greatly increase our forest product business. Though COVID-19 continues to impact our industry, we are trending in the right direction. I want to thank our entire Port of Baltimore workforce for doing incredible jobs to keep us moving forward.”
“Maryland Environmental Service (MES) is pleased to support MDOT MPA in critical infrastructure projects like the Seagirt Marine Terminal Berth 3 dredging project Governor Hogan visited today,” said Maryland Environmental Service Director, Dr. Charles Glass. “The effective management of this project, along with many others including the Masonville Dredged Material Containment Facility and various efforts associated with maintaining navigational channels, helps ensure the Port of Baltimore is able to continue as an economic driver for the region while promoting the continued health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. These projects have continued despite the COVID pandemic and are critical in the rebound from COVID impacts.”
The Port of Baltimore continues to gain new business and expand its business from existing customers. The Port’s recent volume includes 17 “ad hoc” ship calls from mid-July 2020 through mid-March 2021 totaling more than 28,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) containers. Ad hoc ships are vessels that were diverted to Baltimore that were not on a regularly scheduled service.
The Port of Baltimore generates about 15,300 direct jobs, with nearly 140,000 jobs overall linked to Port activities. The Port ranks first among the nation’s ports for volume of autos and light trucks, roll on/roll off heavy farm and construction machinery, and imported gypsum. It ranks 11th among major U.S. ports for foreign cargo handled and 10th for total foreign cargo value.
The health and safety of the Port of Baltimore workforce is paramount, and the public marine terminals have maintained stringent CDC-recommended health and safety guidelines to ensure the safety of its labor force, tenants and partners. MDOT MPA encourages the use of face coverings and social distancing measures for individuals working at the marine terminals, and encourages teleworking for those able to do so. Temperature screenings and other preventative procedures are also continuing.