After a record setting year in 2017 at the Helen Delich Bently Port of Baltimore, The Daily Record asked the port’s Executive Director Jim White how the port helps drive Maryland’s economy and what the future may hold.
Maryland is ‘Open for Business’ under Governor Larry Hogan and the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore is helping to lead that charge. The year 2017 was another record year for our public marine terminals and so far in 2018 we are off to a great start. During the first quarter of 2018, the port’s state-owned public marine terminals handled a record 2.7 million tons of general cargo, an 8 percent jump from last year’s record year. The port also had more than 156,000 containers cross its piers from January through March 2018, a 14 percent jump over 2017 which was a record year for containers.
These marks follow an excellent 2017 for the Port of Baltimore. Last year, the port’s public and private marine terminals handled 38.4 million tons of cargo which was the most since 1979 and the third-highest in its 312-year history.
General cargo reached 10.7 million tons, the second consecutive year it had vaulted the 10-million-ton plateau. It was a nearly 7 percent jump over the previous record year in 2016. One of the major reasons for that impressive mark was the performance of our containers. A record 596,972 containers crossed our public piers in 2017. The Port of Baltimore has seen a 14 percent increase in our containers since the Panama Canal expansion project was completed in 2016. With our 50-foot deep channel and berth and our Neo-Panamax cranes, we can handle some of the largest container ships in the world today.
With that growth, Ports America Chesapeake, which operates our Seagirt container facility, is investing in new equipment and infrastructure. Six new gantry cranes arrived earlier this year with plans to add more. We will also be improving efficiencies at our truck gates to assist with throughput, deepening another berth to 50 feet, and adding additional supersized cranes.
The Port of Baltimore was named the fourth fastest-growing container port in North America. It has been named one of the most efficient ports in the U.S. for the last three years.
In 2017, our port once 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.
Last year also saw growth in our high and heavy sector, comprised of farm, construction and mining machinery. The troubled Eurozone economies have negatively impacted export roll-on/roll-off for the last few years. In 2017, that trend began to turn, and we continue to see that cargo making gains in 2018. Baltimore has remained the nation’s top roll-on/roll-off port with 52 percent of market share.
Our profile as a cruise port continues to grow. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, two of the world’s largest cruise lines, sail from the Port of Baltimore year-round 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. Passengers arriving this year will notice many new improvements inside our cruise terminal that will make their experience even better.
While these successes are wonderful, I always say that our most satisfying role is that of being one of Maryland’s top economic engines. Our men and women, including our highly-skilled labor force, are second to none and the true reason for our success. Moving ahead, we will continue to rely on those outstanding people as we continue to grow our market share and remain one of the busiest ports in the nation.