Auto volumes ramp up at Port of Baltimore
The Port of Baltimore expects to handle 540,000 automobiles for import and export this year, a 22 percent increase from 2010, James White, the Maryland Port Administration's executive director said Wednesday.
Baltimore is the nation's second-largest auto exporting port.
The year-over-year growth is still short of the 2007 record, when the port processed 601,445 autos.
Automobiles are one of many types of marine cargo supported by the port. In welcoming remarks to the Maritime Security Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center, White said a strategy of diversification helped the Port of Baltimore weather the recession in 2009, when overall tonnage only declined 13 percent.
Many ports heavily focused on containers saw volumes plummet by more than 30 percent from their highs in 2007.
Pulp imports from Brazil 'didn't skip a beat,' White said in a brief interview. Baltimore handles 600,000 tons of pulp per year, which is moved by truck and rail to Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clarke plants in Pennsylvania and the Midwest to make paper products.
Last year Baltimore processed 32.8 million tons of cargo worth $36 billion after falling to 22.4 million tons in 2009.
Baltimore leads the nation in roll-on/roll-off cargo, such as outsized shipments for constructions projects and farm equipment. It is the largest import destination for forest products, is 14th in container volume and in the cruise sector.
White said Baltimore's cruise business is taking off. There are 112 cruise sailings scheduled this year, up from 28 three years ago. Carnival Cruise Lines' decision to homeport one of its vessels in Charm City helped to attract other cruise lines that have taken notice of Maryland's affluent populace and the large regional market.
On Monday, the largest ro/ro ship in the world, operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen, stopped at two terminals in the port.
Baltimore enjoyed its best 12-month period of container business, handling 632,482 TEUs from April 2010 to March. The previous high of 629,604 TEUs was reached in January 2007. In the past three years, the port authority has signed multiyear, long-term contract extensions with container lines Evergreen Marine and Mediterranean Shipping Co. that guarantee transport service. MSC also began a direct, weekly container service from the port to the Far East, increasing MSC's total vessel calls and containers through the port.
The 14 million consumers between Washington and southeastern Pennsylvania have attracted carriers despite the extra time required to travel up the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Coast.
Container business is expected to expand further with the opening next year of a new 50-foot berth at the Seagirt Marine Terminal now operated by Ports America under a new 50-year concession. ' Eric Kulisch