Baltimore Bridge Collapse Affects Top U.S. Vehicle-Handling Port

Baltimore's port has handled more vehicle shipments than any other in the U.S. for the last 13 consecutive years.

This image shared by WBAL-TV News in Baltimore shows the sun rising on the wreckage of a collision between a cargo ship and the Francis Scott Key Bridge overnight.

A cargo ship loaded with containers lost power and crashed into a pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore in the early morning hours of March 26, bringing down a large portion of the 1.6-mile bridge and dumping tons of debris and cargo into the Patapsco River.

The first concern was rescuing and recovering motorists who had been driving across the bridge, as well as Maryland Department of Transportation workers who had been repairing potholes. As of 1:30 p.m. ET, first responders were still searching for six people who went missing in the collapse.

But the coming weeks and months will see a massive cleanup effort to re-open one of the nation’s busiest shipping ports, especially for the automotive industry.

The Port of Baltimore handles more vehicle shipments than any other U.S. port – 847,158 cars and light trucks passed through the port in 2023, the 13th consecutive year it was tops in the country, according to the governor’s office.

The Port of Baltimore said in a statement later in the morning ship traffic into and out of the port was suspended until further notice, but trucks are still being processed in the marine terminals. It did not know how long ship traffic would be suspended.

Bloomberg News and Reuters said Ford and GM had already set in motion plans to divert shipments of parts to other ports.

"It's going to have an impact," Ford CFO John Lawler told Bloomberg. "We'll have to divert parts to other ports... It will probably lengthen the supply chain a bit."

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency, and U.S. President Joe Biden pledged the federal government would help.

"We're going to send all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency," he said in a statement delivered from the White House. "We're going to rebuild that port together."

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