It’s a milestone for the Port of Baltimore: Longshore workers at the Seagirt Marine Terminal moved 5,536 containers from a single cargo ship this week. It took three days to shift containers from the super-sized Maersk Edinburgh, with the final move finished at 11 o’clock at night.
It’s the largest number of container moves for a single ship in the port’s 314-year history. (Container moves are the number of times an imported container is unloaded and an export or empty container is loaded onto a ship.)
The record comes at an encouraging time following the impact of the COVID_19 pandemic on international shipping. Volume dropped at all of the Chesapeake Bay ports back in March and April as the coronavirus peaked in various nations.
Now, port activity is gaining traction. While the port’s public marine terminal volume is still below 2019 numbers, in July the port saw double-digit increases compared to the previous month for autos/light trucks, roll on/roll off farm and construction equipment, containers and general cargo. Car and light truck volume is up more than 55 percent, and the port says those cars are going straight to dealerships rather than sitting around for days waiting for pickup—another positive sign.
“The positive trends we’re seeing at the Port of Baltimore give us confidence that Maryland’s economy is recovering in a big way,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “We’re seeing new records for container moves and noteworthy cargo increases—all strong signs of consumer confidence.”
Massive ships like the record-container Maersk Edinburgh can call on the Port of Baltimore because of its 50-foot berth, installed as part of a public-private partnership between the Maryland Port Administration and Ports America Chesapeake, which operates Seagirt Marine Terminal. The 50-year agreement forged in 2009 also included four supersized container cranes at the port.
Work is now underway on a second 50-foot berth that will allow the Port of Baltimore to accommodate two massive ships at the same time, as well as four more supersized cranes. Both projects are expected to be finished by summer 2021.
“The experience at the Port shows us that during challenging economic times, innovative thinking and strong partnerships can help you make progress you wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve,” said Transportation Secretary Greg Slater.
-Meg Walburn Viviano