In Magazine Article, News
POB Jan/Feb 2020 cover

Read this article in the digital edition of our Jan/Feb 2020 issue.

With new cargo records and continued infrastructure investments that will help to grow business, 2019 proved to be an outstanding year for the Port of Baltimore’s state-owned public marine terminals, as the Port continued to follow Gov. Larry Hogan’s lead in making Maryland “open for business.”

Containers and cars/light trucks led the way during a record year for general cargo. More than 11 million tons of general cargo crossed the public piers last year, surpassing the previous high mark of 10.9 million tons in 2018. More than 657,000 containers were handled last year, also beating our 2018 record. We are expecting continued growth in containers as Ports America Chesapeake, which operates our Seagirt container terminal, is making significant investments in new equipment and infrastructure. A second 50-foot-deep berth will come online in 2021, giving us the ability to work two supersized ships simultaneously. Also, financing is now completed for the Howard Street Tunnel project, which will soon provide us with double-stack rail capabilities.

In 2019, the Port of Baltimore 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.

Our high and heavy roll-on/roll-off cargo had another strong year in 2019. That commodity has seen good growth as it continues to rebound the last few years from troubled Eurozone economies that hurt that market. Despite that, however, Baltimore has maintained the highest market-share placement among all U.S. ports.

As one of the most diverse cargo ports in the country, the Port of Baltimore continues to offer superior warehousing facilities for handling of forest products. Add to that operational efficiencies, deep water, a proximity to large consumer groups and a reputation for damage-free handling, and you can see why Baltimore continues to be a very strong player in this market. The Port’s breakbulk business continues to be a bright spot, bringing different types of cargos, from power generation equipment to locomotives, to our purpose-built berths at Dundalk Marine Terminal.

In addition to our cargos, we are also a busy cruise port offering year-round cruises 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. We have also made several upgrades to our cruise terminal to provide our guests with an even more pleasurable experience.

The Port of Baltimore is a successful seaport because of many different reasons, none more important than its people. The men and women who comprise our highly skilled labor force are the true reason for our success. I look forward to continuing to work closely with them, as well as all our Port partners, to push us forward and remain as one of the busiest ports in the country.

Dave Thomas — Acting Executive Director, MDOT MPA


The Port of Baltimore’s state-owned public marine terminals had another record year, exceeding 11 million tons of autos and light trucks, containers, roll on/roll off (farm, mining and construction equipment), forest products and breakbulk cargo for the second consecutive year.

Containers once again had a record year, as the Port welcomed its largest container ship and saw the results of key investments designed to improve efficiencies. Autos and light trucks excelled as well, once again propelling the Port into the top spot among all U.S. ports for that commodity. Roll-on/roll-off equipment again saw double-digit growth this year, continuing a very positive trend for that cargo. The Port remains one of Maryland’s leading economic engines.


Containers were very strong at the Port in 2019. The Port went over the one million TEU threshold for the second consecutive year. Previously made strategic investments allowed for easy vessel access and cargo fluidity through the Seagirt container terminal as the Port had six 14,000-TEU vessels call in just the last seven months of the year.

Baltimore remains at the epicenter of one of the wealthiest and largest consumer groups in the nation. Shippers have leveraged this advantage to better manage precious transportation resources and reduce total miles traveled between the Port and retail shelves or e-commerce deliveries.

Seagirt operator Ports America Chesapeake will begin developing a second, 50-foot-deep berth in 2020. Four additional Neo-Panamax cranes and yard-handling equipment will complement this effort. The Port also received a huge boost in its overall container handling capabilities when final funding was secured recently for the Howard Street Tunnel project. This will provide double-stack access to key Midwest markets and allow the Port to leap over a long-standing hurdle.

Outside the Port itself, 2019 marked another year of continued distribution center growth, adding millions of additional square footage and new customers to the growing base at the Port.


While the state-owned public marine terminals last year nearly surpassed their 2018 record for autos and light trucks, the entire Port of Baltimore, including the private terminals, did set a new record and handle more of this commodity than any other U.S. port for the ninth consecutive year. In total, the Port of Baltimore handled 857,890 cars and light trucks surpassing its previous record of 850,147 set last year.

Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Volvo all had volume increases through the Port in 2019. GM had a strong import year from Mexico, as did Ford from India. Luxury vehicle customers, such as Lamborghini, McLaren and Aston Martin, all had increased volumes as well. The Port’s used-vehicle market to Africa once again proved successful in 2019.

The total U.S. auto sales in 2019 were 17.1 million units, with light trucks and SUVs accounting for a rising 70 percent of the market.

Despite international tariff uncertainties, Mexican and European imports were strong, as were exports to the Mideast, Australia, Europe and South America.

There is no better auto port than Baltimore. The geographic location as the closest East Coast port to the Midwest allows cars to be shipped to and from the heartland in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. The Port also offers auto manufacturers choices, with four on-dock auto processors, many haul-away trucking companies and all major ocean carriers. With a unique quality program, Baltimore guarantees each vehicle 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.


RoroAs the top U.S. port for high and heavy farm and construction machinery, the Port continued to see impressive overall gains in this segment in 2019. The agriculture market remains optimistic, as shown by strong 2019 campaigns by key Port customers. Challenging growing and harvesting forecasts for 2020 may result in farmers being more conservative on purchasing new equipment this year.

The construction machinery sector enjoyed a strong 2019, with more than three percent U.S. growth, the second-largest percentage behind China. Residential and road construction remain strong drivers representing about 40 percent of the market, including key Port customers John Deere, Caterpillar and Astec International. Imports will remain strong due to the dollar strength and with Port customers like John Deere, Case New Holland, Caterpillar, Wirtgen, Komatsu, Doosan and Volvo expecting good 2020 results.

Mining also looks to perform well in 2020, led by Port customers Caterpillar, Hitachi, Komatsu and Liebherr. Strong years are predicted for copper, gold and bauxite.

While tariff uncertainties will continue to be watched closely, the Port expects continued success in this market. Baltimore’s outstanding reputation in the ro/ro industry 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.


The Port continues to be one of the nation’s leading destinations for handling forest products. The Port has long-term agreements with two of the world’s leading international forest products manufacturers, UPM and Metsa. The paper volume continues to see a boost due to the demand of packaging material.

Pulp customer Suzano returned to the Port’s Dundalk Marine Terminal in 2019, but a lot of the public terminal’s former pulp volume has transitioned to a private terminal within the Port.

Whether at a public or private marine terminal, the Port offers its customers outstanding facilities and top-quality warehousing. 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.


The Port prides itself on being one of the most diverse cargo ports in the U.S. Power generation and auto press projects keep the public terminals busy, including direct-to-rail opportunities. Compressors and casts weighing up to 300,000 pounds also made their way onto the public docks.

A recent trend has shown an interest from roll-on/roll-off ocean carriers handling breakbulk and project cargo. As the Port is the top U.S. roll-on/roll-off port, that provides additional means to handle breakbulk.

The Port’s excellent geographic location to states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio allows it to be an ideal port for handling breakbulk cargo destined to those states. The public terminals have made significant inroads in recent years with other breakbulk cargos, including wind turbines, transformers, locomotives, 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 sports three heavy lift pads with a capacity of 32.5 tons per axle per pad that helps the Port with heavier loads.


Cruising from the Port continued to be a very popular vacation option in 2019. More than 224,000 passengers chose the Port for their vacation of a lifetime last year. The Port continued to be served in 2019 by two of the world’s largest cruise lines, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Both sail year-round from Baltimore to wonderfully exotic locations like the Bahamas, Bermuda and Caribbean. There are also sailings in the late summer and fall to beautiful locales in New England and Canada to witness the marvelous fall foliage.

Last year, the Port’s cruise terminal also welcomed port call visits from several ships that gave their passengers the opportunity to disembark and enjoy all the wonderful sightseeing opportunities in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area.

Due to its unique geographic location immediately off Interstate 95, the Port’s cruise terminal attracts passengers from all over the Mid-Atlantic, South and Midwest. In addition to being an easily accessible drive port, Baltimore also benefits from having three Class A airports and Amtrak train service in the region.

The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration has invested in several improvements designed to enhance a passenger’s overall experience at the cruise terminal. These include expanded bathrooms, carpeting, a VIP lounge, a PA system with monitors and ticket kiosks. Passengers love the enclosed breezeway leading from the terminal to the ship that protects them from inclement weather. A waiting area also gives passengers protection from weather. Solar panels on top of the cruise terminal’s roof help to heat the building and reduce energy consumption.

With an ideal location within one of the largest U.S. consumer markets and located in a state with the highest median household income, cruising from the Port continues to be very popular. Your gateway to your getaway!