WATCH: Baltimore's Key Bridge Collapse Sparks Economic Crisis, Here's Why...

By Tommy Wilson | Wednesday, 27 March 2024 12:00 PM
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The sudden collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge has been labeled a "major disaster" by experts, as it poses a significant threat to the $80 billion worth of cargo that traverses one of the busiest ports in the United States.

The Port of Baltimore, renowned as the country's premier import and export hub for cars, light trucks, sugar, and gypsum, set a record in 2023 by handling 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo. However, the overnight collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge has rendered the bustling port inaccessible to shipping vessels, sparking concerns about the economic repercussions.

Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime and a shipping expert, expressed his concerns on LinkedIn, stating, "This is a major disaster and will create significant problems on the US East Coast for US importers and exporters." He further elaborated on the potential implications, noting, "The bridge collapse will mean that for the time being it will not be possible to get to the container terminals – or a range of the other port terminals — in Baltimore."

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Jensen also highlighted the predicament of cargo already gated into the Baltimore terminals, which now faces an uncertain wait for the sealane to reopen or the prospect of being shifted to a different port.

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Paul Wiedefeld, Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation, confirmed on Tuesday that vessel traffic to and from the Port of Baltimore would be suspended indefinitely. However, he emphasized that the port remains open to truck traffic.

Governor Wes Moore acknowledged that the reconstruction of the Key Bridge would likely be a "long-term build," but refrained from providing specific details. "It’s going to be a build that’s going to require every facet and every aspect of our society. It is something that I can tell you we are going to get this done," Moore assured.

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President Biden underscored the port's economic significance and pledged to "move heaven and Earth" to expedite the bridge's repair and support the workers at the Port of Baltimore. "We’re going to do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers," he affirmed.

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The port also serves as a vital support for the cruise industry. According to the Baltimore Banner, Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean ferried approximately 440,000 passengers across the Patapsco River last year. In a statement, Royal Caribbean announced that it was closely monitoring the situation in Baltimore and "working on alternatives for ongoing and upcoming sailings."

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The Port of Baltimore is a significant employment generator, supporting over 15,300 jobs directly and another 140,000 jobs indirectly through port-related activities. Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333 in the Port of Baltimore, warned that the bridge's collapse could have a "catastrophic" impact on those employed there. "Until the shipping channel gets opened, there’s not gonna be any ship traffic, there’s not gonna be any ships, there’s not gonna be any work for the people," Cowan told the Baltimore Sun.

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