By Todd Karpovich | Photography by Bill McAllen
The Port of Baltimore hosted the largest container ship in its 312-year history when the 1,200-foot Gunde Maersk called on Seagirt Marine Terminal in late October.
This striking vessel has the capacity to handle 11,000 20-foot-equivalent unit (TEU) containers. The massive vessel was able to navigate into the Port because of the Port’s 50-foot deep channel and its supersized Neo-Panamax cranes.
“The Port of Baltimore is well positioned to continue welcoming some of the largest container ships in the world,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said. “Our administration will continue making the necessary investments to help this vital asset grow and ensure that the Port remains open for business.”
Maersk Line first began working with the Port in 1928. In 2015, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) officially welcomed Maersk back to the Port of Baltimore with a ceremony after an extended absence. Maersk operates three container services through the Port en route to the Far East, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
The largest container ship to previously visit the Port was an MSC vessel that had a 9,700 TEU container capacity in 2017. The Port is one of the few ports on the East Coast to have a 50-foot deep channel, which is necessary to accommodate the world’s largest ships.
Under a public-private partnership with the MDOT MPA, the Seagirt Marine Terminal is operated by Ports America Chesapeake, a company that is committed to developing world-class infrastructure at the Port.
These improvements have kept record amounts of cargo moving through the Port on vessels such as the Gunde Maersk, which originated in China.
“What was considered a large vessel was a third of the size of what we have here today,” said Bayard Hogans, General Manager of Ports America Chesapeake. “It brings additional capacity to the Port of Baltimore and shippers here in Maryland. It’s really key to our continued growth.”
In August, the Port of Baltimore’s state-owned marine terminals handled 65,281 cars and light trucks, the highest monthly amount ever recorded.
To help meet the increasing demand, Gov. Hogan and the Maryland Board of Public Works recently approved a contract that will complete the fill-in of a wet basin at the Port’s Fairfield Marine Terminal. This will provide more land in a prime location adjacent to the piers to help handle the Port’s surging auto cargo.
In addition to the record month for motor vehicles, in 2018, the Port’s state-owned marine terminals also established records for:
- Best fiscal year tonnage (July 2017–June 2018) for general cargo tons: 10,976,270 tons
- Best quarter for general cargo tons: 2,797,656 tons (second quarter)
- Best first six months for general cargo tons: 5,562,954 tons
- Most TEU containers in one month: 90,152 in May
“The Port of Baltimore continues to be a leading economic engine for our state, supporting thousands of hardworking men and women who ensure the safe handling of record-breaking amounts of cargo each year,” Gov. Hogan said.
The Port’s strong performance in 2018 follows a successful 2017, when its public and private auto terminals handled a record 807,194 cars and light trucks. It was the first time the Port surpassed the 800,000 car/light truck mark and the seventh consecutive year that the Port handled more cars and light trucks than any other U.S. port.
The Port also offers auto manufacturers a choice of four on-dock auto processors, a large number of haul-away trucking companies and all major ocean carriers.
Among the nation’s ports, the Port of Baltimore ranks first for autos and light trucks, roll-on/roll-off heavy farm and construction machinery and imported sugar. The Port ranks second in exported coal. Overall, the Port ranks ninth among all ports for the total dollar value of cargo and 12th in foreign cargo tonnage.
The Port’s track record for luring new business translates into more employment for the state. Business at the Port generates about 13,650 direct jobs, while about 127,600 jobs in Maryland are linked to Port activities. The Port accounts for nearly $3 billion in personal wages and salary. In addition, the Port generates more than $300 million in state and local tax revenues.
The Port is an attractive place to do business because of its direct rail access and terminal gate efficiencies. Millions of square feet of warehouse space are also available, and the Port has a strategic location on the East Coast with easy access to the Interstate-95 corridor.
The Port has been recognized for the last few years as being one of the most productive container ports in the nation. Three of the world’s largest container-shipping companies — Evergreen, Maersk and MSC — operate at the Port.
In addition, the Port consistently ranks high on the security spectrum. The U.S. Coast Guard has awarded the Port’s six public terminals its highest security ranking — “excellent” — for the ninth consecutive year, based on its annual inspections to ensure the terminals are complying with federal security regulations.
In 2017, the Port of Baltimore’s public and private marine terminals handled 38.4 million tons of cargo, the most since 1979 and the third-highest tonnage in its history. The public marine terminals, managed by the MDOT MPA, handled a record 10.7 million tons of general cargo.
It was the second consecutive year that the public terminals handled more than 10 million tons of general cargo. Included in the general cargo number was a record 596,972 containers, an 11 percent jump from the previous record set in 2016.