After the collapse of the Baltimore Bridge, America faces a dilemma!

Following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, USA, in the early hours of last Tuesday, the questions now go beyond relief efforts and searching for the missing, or even rebuilding the collapsed bridge or connecting the two banks of the river as it was before… The threat facing the port of Baltimore is a major dilemma for American trade.

In terms of size, the Port of Baltimore is ninth in terms of loading and unloading capabilities for international goods, but it is the first in shipping “wheeled” goods, led by cars, agricultural and construction machinery… Since the collapse of the bridge, work at the port has stopped, so manufacturers and shipping companies search for quick alternatives that allow them Loading and unloading goods.

While there are already other ports on the American East Coast close to the stricken port, which may mitigate the consequences of the crisis, some of them may not be logistically equipped to receive this type of goods, and moving to others will mean a higher cost, more time, and greater congestion.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed on Wednesday that it was too early to estimate how long it would take to clear the bridge structure from the 50-foot-deep (15-meter) Patapsco River channel, which leads to the port’s main terminal.

The state of Maryland, where the Port of Baltimore is located, says that the port’s traffic witnessed the transport of about 850,000 vehicles last year, including 70% of exports. Port transactions also include trade in steel, aluminium, timber, furniture and sugar, in addition to important energy supplies, which extend from natural gas to coal exports. The latter passes through about 20% of American exports through the port of Baltimore, which is the second percentage in the United States after the port of Norfolk in Virginia.

Overall, the port handled up to 11.7 million tons of cargo in 2023, a record high in its history. More than 1,800 ships passed through it, and it received more than 444,000 passengers on a cruise.

In the hours following the accident, Windward Maritime, a maritime risk management company, predicted that ships scheduled to head to Baltimore would be delayed by at least 24 days. The company also said its data shows a significant increase in the number of ships slowing down or stopping in the North Atlantic, which likely means they are waiting to find out which port to go to.

Currently, automakers are seeking to shift shipping activities to other ports on the East Coast, north and south of the Port of Baltimore.

Moody’s, the credit rating agency, expected that trade movement would quickly find alternatives to the Port of Baltimore, thus reducing the cost of closing the port on trade and its impact on final consumer prices. “Eventually, most trade through Baltimore will find a new major port,” Moody’s economist Harry Murphy Cruz wrote in a blog post.

Officials estimated the cost of closing the port on the economy at about $15 million per day, while US Senator David Trone explained that about 15,000 workers at the port would be temporarily threatened with unemployment. (cnbc)

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