The Port of Baltimore is a tremendous economic asset for the state but analysts warn that other east coast competitors have better infrastructure and are working to deepen their ports in an effort to attract more cargo from the Panama Canal expansion.
The port is one of a handful on the east coast that is deep enough to handle the larger ships that are expected to come following the expansion of the canal. But analysts for Moody’s, in a report, said the lack of rail infrastructure will prove limiting in the future.
“It’s more of an issue of volume,” Laura Ratz, an economist with Moody’s Analytics and an author of the report, said during a briefing last week. “Volumes are only going to go up and the port already has some difficulty handling large volume. Volume is only going to increase going forward.
Last year the port posted records at its public terminals and handled 9.7 million tons of overall total general cargo last year.
But moving the cargo efficiently from ship to rail and out of the port is a sticking point that will only grow larger.
The region has struggled to resolve the situation including looking at tunnel and other infrastructure improvements that would allow for double stacking of cargo on trains. A plan to build an intermodal facility in the region has also struggled to move forward.
“We’re still struggling with that,” Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, D-Howard and Baltimore Counties and chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said of the issue.
Ratz said other peer ports such as Port of Savannah, the Port of Virginia, and ports in Boston, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have better infrastructure and are looking to dredge their facilities to accommodate the larger ships. Delaware, which was not cited in the Moody’s report, is also looking to expand its facility.
“It’s an area where its peers are moving ahead and the Port (of Baltimore) is standing still,” Ratz said.