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CBRE ranks Baltimore port high

Baltimore’s port is on the way up thanks to the surrounding industrial commercial real estate market.

According to CBRE’s inaugural North American Ports Logistics Annual Report, Baltimore is ranked No. 11 in the nation’s top 15 based on port infrastructure capabilities and strength of the area’s industrial commercial real estate market.

“Overall industrial leasing activity in Baltimore was strong in 2014, with four million square feet of positive net absorption in the market,” Tim Zulick, CBRE Managing Director in the Baltimore region, said in a news release. “The majority of the net absorption occurred in Baltimore city, a submarket that is closely tied to port activity, causing availability to fall 6.8 percent compared to 2013.”

Baltimore is ranked as high as it is in  large part because Ports America, the port and terminals operator, has invested more than $100 million in the Seagirt Marine terminal. The port also boasts advantages such as a new berth with 50-foot draft and four “super post-Panamax cranes” — cranes large enough to accommodate vessels that can pass through the widened Panama Canal.

The port has been a tremendous draw for industrial projects recently, in large part because of “e-commerce” demands. Projects such as the planned rehab at the 3,100 acre Sparrows Point and Chesapeake Real Estate Group LLC’s plans for the former Sun Products Corp. manufacturing site are using the proximity to the port as a selling point.

The report also found that ports on the East Coast are growing faster than their West Coast counterparts, but Los Angeles, Long Beach, Seattle and Oakland still remain in the top five spots. A shipping slowdown as a result of a labor dispute slowed some operations at West Coast ports last year, but Baltimore was not in a position to take advantage because of its inability to ship out double-stack containers by rail.

But 2014 was still a record-setting year for the port of Baltimore. Combined public and private terminals brought in 29.5 million tons of cargo last year that represented $52.5 billion. Baltimore also ranked highest in the nation for importing commodities such as cars, imported sugar and construction machinery.

Overall, the port is responsible  for an estimated 14,630 direct jobs, $3 billion in personal wages and $300 million in state and local taxes.

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About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.