Hundreds of jobs, millions in tax revenue at risk while Port of Baltimore remains closed

 Officials are racing to reopen the Port of Baltimore, which generates nearly $400 million in state and local tax revenue annually. Federal officials are not prepared to speculate on when the port will be open again, but there is a financial urgency to open as soon as possible.

The port is responsible for nearly $3.3 billion in personal wages and salaries, $2.6 billion in business revenue, and nearly $400 million in state and local tax revenue annually. That is roughly $1.09 million in tax revenue a day.

"With no cargo coming in or out – until they open the channel – there will be a point when they'll completely close down the loading and unloading operation, which is pretty catastrophic for the members of the ILA who work on the waterfront," said Rich Krueger, president of the International Longshoremen's Association.  

The catastrophic bridge collapse that closed the Port of Baltimore to ship traffic is causing some logistics headaches, with other ports all along the East Coast now poised to take on more cargo.

With six people presumed dead after a container ship collision destroyed the Francis Scott Key Bridge, it remained unclear how long the span's twisted superstructure would block the harbor's mouth.

But port officials from New York to Georgia were busy fielding queries from shippers about diverting Baltimore-bound cargo from containers to vehicles and bulk material.

"We're ready to help. We have ample capacity to absorb any surge in container traffic," Port of Virginia spokesperson Joe Harris said. The port is expected to be a major beneficiary of the Baltimore port's shutdown due to its proximity to the city. Other ports like the ports in Savannah and Brunswick in Georgia are also poised to absorb some of the traffic. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that while there were many ports on the East Coast, "there is no substitute for the Port of Baltimore being up and running," as it is the top U.S. port for vehicle imports and exports, including farm and construction machinery.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said a federal supply chain task force was meeting to assess the port's closure but said the administration of President Joe Biden "will do everything as quickly as we possibly can" to reopen it.

They are the clerks and checkers who handle the complex paperwork involved with international cargo. Some 250 union members of this union work at the Baltimore Harbor, and other unions represent other workers there.

Shipping companies diverting cargo originally bound for Baltimore

"Nobody knows how long they're going to go without getting a paycheck," warned Krueger. "So you can imagine people with mortgages, and car payments, and their children are in school and daycare. It's a pretty nervous period for everyone, to see how this is going to pan out. We’re just waiting for more information."

A total of eight contractors working on the bridge deck fell into the water; two were rescued, and six were presumed dead. Their bodies have not been recovered. The U.S. Coast Guard continued the effort on March 27 to recover their remains.

"Even as families come to terms with that grief, and even as those recovery operations continue, work is underway to investigate what happened and to restore the key transportation resources that were impacted," Buttigieg said. He noted there are two timelines: reopening the port and rebuilding the bridge.

"Reopening the port is a different matter from rebuilding the bridge. The port, that's just a matter of clearing the channel. Still no simple thing, but I would expect that can happen on a much quicker timeline than the full reconstruction of the bridge," Buttigieg said.

Shipping companies destined for Baltimore are diverting cargo to other ports along the East Coast, but Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a professor who analyzes maritime commerce at Campbell University in North Carolina, said that could be risky business.

"There is a long-term fear [in Baltimore that] they may lose business permanently because of this. And that’s because they’re saying in New York [and] New Jersey, you can just shift your cargo here," Mercogliano said. Competition is fierce in the shipping industry where there is a finite amount of cargo to go around.

The Port of Baltimore handles between $100 million and $200 million worth of cargo a day, and, according to Maryland State Senate President Bill Ferguson, more than 15,000 people in the Baltimore region rely on daily operations at the port to put food on the table.

Hundreds of jobs, millions in tax revenue at risk while Port of Baltimore remains closed Hundreds of jobs, millions in tax revenue at risk while Port of Baltimore remains closed Reviewed by Your Destination on April 05, 2024 Rating: 5

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