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Inside the impact of the Baltimore bridge incident on the supply chain

Both Container xChange and an EKA partner have described how the US supply chain can respond to the ongoing impact of the Port of Baltimore tragedy

Various container logistics and shipping companies have begun to reveal the costly impact that the Port of Baltimore bridge tragedy will have on the surrounding ports and economies.

Following the incident involving the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland late last month, online global container logistics platform Container xChange says the impact on the surrounding supply chain will be profound, while the impact on the overall US economy remains relatively limited.

“Collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is a stark reminder of the fragility of our infrastructure and the critical need for resilience in the face of unexpected events.” Container xChange cofounder and CEO Christian Roeloffs says.

“As we navigate the aftermath, we are reminded that the container logistics industry centres around the critical need for robust risk management and resilience in supply chain operations.

“It highlights the importance of contingency planning, diversified routing options and the integration of real-time tracking and analytics to mitigate the impacts of unforeseen events.

“This incident serves as a reminder that infrastructure vulnerabilities can lead to disruptions, and being prepared with flexible, adaptive strategies is essential for maintaining continuity in the face of challenges.”

While the full extent of the incident is yet to be determined, Roeloffs says the collision is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the Port of Baltimore and its role in both the regional and national US economy.

According to Container xChange customer advisories, the coming weeks could see severe supply chain disruptions, particularly in transporting automobiles and crude oil, rising transportation costs when seeking alternative routes, a regional impact on the wider Baltimore region and an impact on consumers, who could experience delays and price increases for certain products.

When it comes to container movement, Roeloffs says the suspension of traffic at the Port of Baltimore means more than 40 ships remain inside the port, with at least 30 others signalling their destination as Baltimore.

“This redirection could result in increased congestion and delays at these ports, affecting the timely delivery of goods and potentially leading to inventory shortages,” Roeloffs says.

When it comes to port operations, the harbour’s paused port traffic means a range of industries, including farm and construction machinery, automobiles, forest products, imported sugar and gypsum and exported coal may all be impacted.

“While the magnitude of the impact is yet to be determined, the disruption in traffic and operations at the port could lead to significant economic losses,” Roeloffs says.

“The port generates nearly $3.3 billion in total personal income and supports over 15,000 direct jobs, with an additional 139,000 jobs connected to port work.

“The suspension of port activities could result in financial hardships for businesses and individuals dependent on port-related activities.”

EKA partner and former Port of Long Beach trade managing director Alex Cherin has also offered an insight into the impacts of the incident, calling for alternative gateways.

While immediate cargo diversion from the US East Coast may not be imminent, Cherin says that increased volumes are expected to flow towards the West Coast and Gulf Ports over the next six months to one year.

“The closure of the Port of Baltimore for any substantial duration will undoubtedly compel importers to explore alternative ports of entry, particularly those equipped with infrastructure and assets not readily available along the East Coast,” Cherin says.

“The deep water, rail connectivity and warehousing capabilities of West Coast and Gulf Ports, traditionally overlooked by shippers accustomed to Baltimore, are poised to emerge as attractive alternatives as capacity constraints plague other East Coast ports or hinder handling specialised cargo such as automobiles.

“Key factors such as fuel prices, rail availability and trucking costs will weigh heavily on the decision-making process as industry players navigate this pivotal juncture. The shifting dynamics in the wake of the Port of Baltimore tragedy are a stark reminder of the resilience and adaptability inherent in the global shipping network.”

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