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September 01, 2020 1:29pm
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Baltimore bridge collapse to bring trade and traffic chaos

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge is expected to have major repercussions for trade and traffic in the area with several cargo ships expected to be rerouted causing backlogs and price increases.

The tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge along I-695 in Maryland into the Baltimore harbor following a "ship strike" early Tuesday morning is expected to cause major economic disruptions to the area and across the country. 

The port, a major route for shipping containers and cruise liners, is the deepest harbor in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, closer to the Midwest than other East Coast ports, with five public and 12 private terminals, according to the Maryland government website. 

The I-695 is also a critical link for trucking and motor vehicles linking Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York and the disaster comes ahead of the upcoming Easter Weekend.


The port is the busiest in the U.S. for car shipments, handling more than 750,000 vehicles in 2023, according to data from the Maryland Port Administration. It is also the largest U.S. port by volume for handling farm and construction machinery, as well as agricultural products.

It handled a record amount of cargo last year, making it the 20th biggest port in the nation ranked by total tons, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Chloe Demrovsky, the executive in residence in global economy at New York University, tells Fox News Digital that the port has grown significantly over the last 25 years and the bridge collapse is going to have a devastating impact on the area. 

"Since the widening of deepening of the Panama Canal in 2016, it just became that much more important and capable of docking some of those really large container ships coming out of Asia that could now come through the Panama Canal and go to Baltimore," Demrovsky said.

"And from there they can connect with the important trucking routes to service not just the whole country, but in particular the very busy eastern corridor. So it became a really strategically important area for moving a lot of units."

The port is one of the smallest on the Northeastern seaboard, handling 265,000 containers in the fourth quarter of last year, Reuters reports. In comparison, the Port of New York and New Jersey handled around 2 million containers in that same period, and Norfolk Port in Virginia handled 850,000.

The cargo ship that hit the bridge was the Dali, a 95,000 GT Singapore-flagged container ship on its way to Sri Lanka, the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore confirmed. It is stacked with dozens of cargo containers carrying Maersk customers’ cargo. There were 22 crew members onboard at the time of the incident, although Maersk said none of its crew and personnel were on the vessel.

It was not immediately clear what type of cargo is on the Dali.

The port is also popular with cruise liners, with operators including Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean all using the port for Caribbean, Canadian and other Atlantic destinations, Reuters reports. In 2023, cruises carrying more than 444,000 passengers departed from the port, the Maryland government website says.


According to the ship tracking service Marine Traffic, there are currently eight bulk carriers and one vehicle carrier headed for Baltimore that are now waiting at anchor just off Ken Island, which is about 20 miles south of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

"It's hard to know exactly how this is going to work out because you have the port issue and then you have the trucking issue. And with I695 down, that's where a lot of these oversized trucks and hazardous materials were being routed along that whole corridor."

"So as we go into the holiday weekend, we're just going to see a snarl. And it's going to take quite a while for it to shift until something can be done in that area."

More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore port, including small cargo ships, tug boats and pleasure craft, data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic shows.

Demrovsky says that some of the vessels could be rerouted to the West Coast, meaning cargo would have to be trucked back across the country which is much more expensive and time-consuming. Furthermore, several prominent companies have distribution warehouses or other facilities in an industrial park on the north end of the bridge including and FedEx.


Demrovsky said we could also see price hikes to cover these costs, while insurance for vessels could also balloon.

"We are already seeing major insurance issues around some of the Red Sea issues and some of the other issues we're seeing around shipping, there's just been a lot of attention on the supply chain since Covid … and so it's harder to get insurance for these major, shipping ships anyway."

Meanwhile, Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., who sits on the trade subcommittee, also said the incident will impact commerce. 

"Of course it will affect trade. I’m worried about the families and all of the inconvenience that will occur because the bridge is gone. It was such a good link," Miller told Fox News Tuesday.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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