In Magazine Article, News

Read this article in the January/February 2018 digital edition.

Photos Courtesy of Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Port Administration

Maryland is “Open for Business” under Gov. Larry Hogan and the Port of Baltimore is helping to lead that charge. The year 2017 was another record year for our public marine terminals. Despite some challenges from worldwide economic conditions, the public terminals again set new marks in both general cargo and containers.

General cargo reached 10.7 million tons, the second consecutive year it vaulted the 10-million-ton plateau. It was a nearly seven percent jump over the previous record year in 2016. One of the major reasons for that impressive mark was the performance of our containers. A record 596,972 containers crossed our public piers in 2017. The Port has seen a 14 percent increase in our containers since the Panama Canal expansion project was completed in 2016. With our 50-foot deep channel and berth and our Neo-Panamax cranes, we can handle some of the largest container ships in the world today.

With that growth, Ports America Chesapeake, which operates our Seagirt container facility, is investing in new equipment and infrastructure. Six new gantry cranes arrived in January, with plans to add more. We will also be improving efficiencies at our truck gates to assist with throughput, deepening another berth to 50 feet, and adding additional supersized cranes.

The Port was named the fourth-fastest-growing container port in North America. It has also been named one of the most efficient ports in the U.S. for the last three years.

Our Port once again handled more autos than any other U.S. port. Our unique quality program and geographic advantage as the closest East Coast port to the Midwest continue to be key factors in our success. Baltimore’s reputation for vehicle handling is also boosted by the presence of four on-dock vehicle processors.

Last year also saw growth in our high and heavy sector, comprised of farm, construction and mining machinery. The troubled Eurozone economies have negatively impacted export roll-on/roll-off for the last few years. In 2017, that trend began to turn, and we are confident it will continue into 2018. Baltimore has remained the nation’s top roll-on/roll-off port with 52 percent of market share.

Though we had some challenges last year in forest products, as a longtime national leader, Baltimore offers its customers outstanding facilities, including state-of-the-art warehouses. Add to that operational efficiencies, deep water, a proximity to large consumer groups and a reputation for damage-free handling, and Baltimore continues to be a very strong player in this market.

Our profile as a cruise port continues to grow. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, two of the world’s largest cruise lines, sail from the Port year-round to the Bahamas, Bermuda and Caribbean. Our cruise terminal’s location immediately off Interstate 95 has allowed for easy access for many of our passengers arriving from neighboring states. Passengers arriving this year will notice many new improvements inside our cruise terminal that will make their experience even better.

While these successes are wonderful, I always say that our most satisfying role is that of being one of Maryland’s top economic engines. Our men and women, including our highly skilled labor force, are second to none and the true reason for our success. Moving ahead, we will continue to rely on those outstanding people as we continue to grow our market share and remain one of the busiest ports in the nation.

James J. White,

Executive Director, Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Port Administration

General Cargo

general cargoIt was another record year for general cargo for the Port of Baltimore’s public marine terminals in 2017! The Port handled 10.7 million tons of autos and light trucks, containers, roll-on/roll-off (farm, mining and construction equipment), forest products (rolled paper and wood pulp) and breakbulk cargo at the state-owned terminals.

New records were established for general cargo and containers.

Baltimore’s container business also continues to see record growth. Autos saw another great year as Baltimore continues to handle more of that commodity than any other port in the nation. Roll-on/roll-off saw an increase and overall the Port of Baltimore’s market share for that cargo continued to lead the nation. The Port of Baltimore remains one of Maryland’s leading economic engines.


containersIn 2017, the Port of Baltimore handled 596,972 containers — another record year. With a volume increase of nearly 11 percent year-over-year, Baltimore was recently named the fourth fastest growing port in North America. A full year of the expanded Panama Canal has helped to fuel this growth by bringing larger vessels and continuing to shift capacity and volume from the West to the East Coast.

2017 marked a pivotal year for strategic container growth in the Port. The Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) purchased more than 70 acres of land adjacent to Seagirt Marine Terminal and has merged that into its 50-year public-private partnership with Ports America Chesapeake. This added significant capacity for container expansion and will enable Seagirt to manage its projected growth for at least the next 20 years.

Ports America Chesapeake continues to invest in Seagirt with six additional RTGs that arrived in January. Further plans are in development for enhanced gate technologies, weigh in motion scales and even more terminal infrastructure. A gray chassis pool and empty container yard will also optimize on-dock loaded container activity and increase terminal velocity.

Distribution center growth continues to remain robust in the Baltimore market with millions of square feet of warehouse space delivered in 2017 and millions more scheduled to deliver in 2018. In addition, there is upwards of 20 million square feet of additional distribution space that can be built within a short drive of the Port.


As the leading auto port in the U.S. for the seventh straight year, the Port of Baltimore had another record year in 2017. Baltimore saw 419,304 import autos cross its public docks last year, the highest amount ever. That is a big reason why Baltimore again finished the year on top in autos.

The Port of Baltimore saw increases with most of its auto customers. Jaguar-Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru all had excellent years, with gains over 2016 volumes. The all-electric Tesla also enjoyed a good year in its first full year in Baltimore. The Teslas are produced in California, transported to the Port of Baltimore and then shipped to Europe. Light trucks and crossover vehicles continue to drive the market in the U.S. A high percentage of those same vehicles crossed the docks in Baltimore.

Overall in 2017, U.S. auto sales had another banner year, with more than 17 million cars and light trucks sold.

Baltimore’s advantages as an auto port are many. For import autos, Baltimore’s geographic location as the closest East Coast port to the Midwest allows cars to be shipped to inland destinations in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. The same geographic advantage helps with export autos coming into the Port from the Midwest. The Port also offers auto manufacturers choices with four on-dock auto processors, a large number of haul-away trucking companies and all major ocean carriers. With its unique quality program QCHAT, Baltimore guarantees each auto leaving or arriving is handled with top notch care. With these benefits in its back pocket, it’s easy to see why Baltimore continues to have great successes in autos.


After several weak years, the international roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) market began to bounce back in 2017. The third and fourth quarters last year saw an uptick in business and helped end the year on a high note. Baltimore’s strong 52 percent market share has helped it continue as the nation’s top ro/ro port.

Baltimore’s success in the ro/ro market stems from many factors, including a geographic location as the closest East Coast port to the Midwest, a large and diverse group of competing ocean carriers and a unique and unrivaled quality program that brings together all the key players in the ro/ro supply chain. The Port’s strong reputation for efficiency, quality and labor are all main factors in encouraging shippers and carriers to use Baltimore for their ro/ro cargo.

Heading into 2018, there are positive signs with the Port’s recent announcement of a new service into New Zealand and Australia.

The mining industry showed positive trends toward the end of 2017, with an increase in drilling activity and new development projects. Target markets remain South America, Australia and China.

American manufacturers are finding business savvy ways to strengthen and maximize their portfolio by merging with or acquiring high-opportunity companies. Moving into 2018, optimism abounds for an improving ro/ro market.


The Port of Baltimore continued in 2017 to be a very popular cruise port for people from up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, two of the world’s largest cruise lines, sail year-round from Baltimore to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean and New England/Canada. Last year, Baltimore offered 87 homeport and nine port calls.

Between September and October of 2017, the Port of Baltimore handled 28 cruise ship arrivals, including nine port calls. In 2017, in addition to Carnival and Royal Caribbean, the Cruise Maryland terminal also welcomed the Crystal Serenity, Europa 2, Silver Explorer, Amadea, P&O Aurora, AIDA Mar and AIDA Luna.

With the Cruise Maryland terminal optimally positioned immediately off Interstate 95, Baltimore regularly attracts cruisers who can drive from neighboring states and reach their ship. In addition to being an excellent drive-to port, Baltimore also benefits from having three Class-A airports in the region.

The MDOT Maryland Port Administration made several improvements to the Port’s cruise terminal, including expanded bathroom facilities, new carpeting, a new VIP lounge, a new PA system with monitors and new ticket kiosks. Passengers love the enclosed breezeway leading from the terminal to the ship that protects them from inclement weather. A new waiting area was also added to get passengers out of the cold or hot weather.

With an ideal geographic placement within one of the largest U.S. consumer markets and in the state with the highest median household income, cruising from the Port of Baltimore continues to be a very viable option and a great place to start a cruising vacation — your gateway to your getaway!

Forest Products

Though both paper and wood pulp saw decreases in 2017, the Port of Baltimore is well positioned to turn that around.

Port customer Metsä Board of Finland opened a new paper mill in Sweden in 2016, which started to bring additional volume to Baltimore in 2017. The new mill manufactures folding box boards for use in the food packaging industry, which is a new product line for the Port. With the increase in online shopping, there is also a greater demand for packaging material.

The Port of Baltimore is fortunate to have the services of one of the top international forest product manufacturers, UPM of Finland, which is in year two of a 10-year contract.

As a longtime national leader in forest products, Baltimore offers its customers outstanding facilities, including state-of-the-art warehouses. Add to that operational efficiencies, deep water, a proximity to large consumer groups and a reputation for damage-free handling, and Baltimore continues to be a very strong player in this market.


2017 saw a slight increase for breakbulk cargo at the Port of Baltimore’s public marine terminals. Much of this was due to the natural gas pipeline projects and heat recovery steam generator market. As natural gas continues to gain traction as a main source of electricity, this market should see additional increases in 2018.

The public terminals have made significant inroads in recent years with other breakbulk cargos, including wind turbines, transformers, locomotives, and refinery and energy production equipment. Two heavy lift cranes and enhanced on-dock rail capabilities allow direct discharge on and off a ship.

Dundalk Marine Terminal upgraded another direct to rail berth that includes upgraded weight to axle capabilities. Dundalk sports three heavy lift pads with a capacity of 32.5 tons per axle per pad, which will help the Port handle heavier loads.