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What the Baltimore bridge collapse means for shippers 

Last week brought tragic news that a containership leaving the Port of Baltimore, US had struck a bridge, bringing down the bridge and claiming six lives.  

As investigations and salvage operations get underway, talk has turned to alternative routes and attempts to mitigate any impact of the port’s subsequent closure on supply chains. This information has been eagerly awaited amidst other disruptions to shipping seen in the Red Sea and around the Panama Canal.  

At present, most freight bound for the Port of Baltimore is being diverted to neighbouring east coast ports of Norfolk and New York. Major carrier, Maersk, for instance, has announced its intention to run substitute services through east coast ports.  

Meanwhile, it is expected west coast ports, with their deeper drafts, are also likely to see an increase in port traffic, easing concerns about already stretched capacity on the east coast. Rail freight and the US’s rail infrastructure connecting east and west will no doubt become a key part of logistics solutions. Of the 2,000 loads due to enter the Port of Baltimore, 600 have already been rerouted according to FourKites freight platform.

More importantly, though, research suggests that the port’s modest throughput means disruptions to supply chains should be limited. The Port of Baltimore handled 1.12 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2023, constituting just 5 percent of all containerised freight bound for US east coast ports.  

Whilst it’s understandable that the incident might spark concern in shippers already contending with crisis in the Red Sea and reduced Panama Canal transits, it’s clear that any impact on global supply chains should be limited and is being mitigated with a range of proactive alternatives. 

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