Home Money The Baltimore Bridge Collapse Is About to Get Even Messier

The Baltimore Bridge Collapse Is About to Get Even Messier

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The Baltimore Bridge Collapse Is About to Get Even Messier

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the global supply chain and U.S. coastal infrastructure collided in the worst possible way. A huge container ship, the Dali, crashed into a support of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing the central span to crumble into the Patapsco River and closing the city’s harbor from the Atlantic Ocean. Eighteen hours later, around 7:30 PM on Tuesday evening, rescuers called off the search, leaving six missing people believed to have died.

With the wreckage yet to be cleared, the Port of Baltimore — a crucial shipping hub — has suspended all water traffic, according to the Maryland Port Administration, although trucks are still moving goods in and out of the area. Baltimore is the ninth busiest port in the US for international trade, meaning the impact of the crash will ripple through the regional, US and even global economies no matter how long it takes to repair the 47-year-old bridge – a timeline, say experts. , which is still unclear.

This will be particularly painful for the automotive, agricultural equipment and construction industries, as Baltimore on the US East Coast handles the most “roll on, roll off” vessels – an industry term for vessels designed to transport cargo on wheels. The port has the specialized equipment to transport these products, employees trained in their use, and, crucially, a location within an overnight driving distance of the densely populated East Coast and heavily built-up Midwest.

Last year, almost 850,000 cars and light trucks passed through the port. This also applied to 1.3 million tons of agricultural and construction machinery.

Fortunately for the logistics industry, there are some alternative routes, both for ships entering the port and for trucks crossing the river. Two tunnels cross the Patapsco and could carry some of the goods and people that once traveled over the Key Bridge, which was also part of Maryland Route 695. Nearby ports, including Norfolk in Virginia, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and Savannah in Georgia, should are closed. able to accept many of the goods commonly handled by the Port of Baltimore.

But the shipping picture will become more complicated the longer it takes for the disaster to be resolved. Ships transport large, heavy goods across the oceans in large quantities, albeit relatively slowly. This means that changes to their routes and destinations can add a lot of time to a trip. If a ship is carrying a lot of different cargoes for a lot of different industries, a robbery along the way will leave a lot of people clamoring for their supplies.

“Everyone now says, ‘We’re going to reroute, it’ll be fine,’” said Nada Sanders, an expert in supply chain management at Northeastern University. “If this continues for a while, things won’t turn out well. It will affect prices.”

Bigger ships, same bridge

The destruction of the bridge also underlines that boats are getting bigger. Trade transport volume across the seas has tripled over the past three decades. With a length of almost 300 meters, the Dali is emblematic of the ballooning shipping industry.

The growth of boats is due to simple economics: the more goods you can cram onto a ship, the more you save on costs. “The amount of freight has increased dramatically,” said Zal Phiroz, a supply chain analyst at UC San Diego. “This has been heavily influenced by Covid, and also post-Covid. Freight prices skyrocketed, container prices skyrocketed. Everything just went through the roof.”

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