The Port of Baltimore’s long-term strategy appears to be paying off. After weathering the uncertainty from shifting cargo flows, and through the global economic downturn, Baltimore has spent much of the last few years posting record volumes. Container traffic and automobiles are leading the charge, with expectations for further growth ahead, but forest products are also playing a critical role to help Baltimore regain its once enviable dominance on the US East Coast.
Host port for the upcoming PPI Transport Symposium 20, to be held October 28-31, the Port of Baltimore looked to finish 2012 ahead of the previous year’s pace for several cargos. Through the first three quarters of the year, Bal- timore handled 7.21 million tons of general cargo at the public marine terminals, a ten percent increase from 2011, and is on track to possibly match the record of 8.96 million set in 2008. Overall, through the first nine months of 2012, the port handled nearly 30 million tons of for- eign commerce (general cargo plus bulk cargo) across its public and private terminal docks.
The Port of Baltimore is now ranked number one among the 360 US ports for handling imported forest products, as well as farm and construction equipment, automobiles and light trucks, and imported sugar, iron ore and gypsum. In the last two years, Baltimore has improved its position to become ranked 11th na- tionally for total dollar value of cargo (up from 12th in 2009) and 12th for cargo tonnage (up from 14th). Cargoes are up a total of six percent in 2012, over the same period from the previous year, including containers, automobiles, forest products, and roll on/roll off (Ro/Ro). And these increases come after a 15% surge over 2010 volumes, the greatest growth increase of any major US port for that year.
Supersize work ahead
Baltimore may be seeing golden days ahead, but there is short time to celebrate. All eyes are fo- cused on maintaining these volume levels and preparing for more business when the Panama Canal expansion is finished in late 2014 or early 2015. All of the ports on the East Coast are vying to ready for the behemoth super post-Panamax ships, loaded with up to 13,000 containers each, from the Asia Pacific routes. The ships had been previously forced to rely on West Coast ports because their size wouldn’t allow them to fit through the current locks in the Panama Canal.
Because of its long-term planning, Baltimore is one of the first East Coast ports to have completed projects that will allow it to receive the larger ships, and accommodate the demands of loading and unloaded the cargo in a reasonable timeframe. These projects included dredging both the channel and a berth to 50 feet and the installation of four new supersized container cranes at the Seagirt Marine Terminal. Completed in early 2013, the cranes are part of a $1.3 billion 50-year public-private partnership between Ports America Chesapeake and the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), which oversees the Port of Baltimore.
The four monster cranes, towering the sky above the port, represent the future for Baltimore. Each crane weighs more than 1,550 tons and is taller than a 14-story building. Since they are fully electric and will emit no diesel emissions, the cranes also are helping Baltimore meet its environmental targets. With their arrival, the port took one more step toward reaching a goal of being in a competitive position to han- dle the larger ships and higher volumes as soon as the ships begin arriving on the East Coast.
In a statement last year, Maryland Gover- nor Martin O’Malley commented on how strong business had returned to the Port of Baltimore. “These strong third quarter results further prove that the Port of Baltimore is on the right track as
we recover from the challenging economic peri- od of the past few year,” said Governor O’Malley. “The port’s continued success in its cargo and cruise business combined with the new 50-ft deep container berth and supersized cranes mean a very bright future for the thousands of direct jobs generated by the Port of Baltimore.”
With its growing strength in imports, another key to Baltimore’s success lies in the port’s proximity to inland customers and manufacturers. As the farthest inland port on the East Coast, Baltimore boasts that the port is “8 hours to 8 million people,” referring to the eight hours it takes a vessel to sail through the Chesapeake Bay channel from the Atlantic Ocean and the more than eight million people in the greater Baltimore/Washington regional market. From its location, Baltimore is accessible to two- thirds to the total US population within an over- night drive and is the closest East Coast port to the manufacturing centers of the Midwest.
Purpose built terminals
Forest products continue to be a strong component of the overall cargo mix for the Port of Baltimore. A resolute focus on attracting import forest products volumes has helped the port
reach for new record levels. Wood pulp, coming in increasingly larger volumes from Brazil, and demand from companies like Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble for the growing tissue markets, are becoming the biggest drivers for the port and Baltimore Forest Products Terminal (BalTerm), which handles nearly all of the port’s forest products traffic.
While annual volumes are down from their 2008 peak of more than 1.16 million tons, forest products cargo is still healthy, primarily due to Baltimore’s efforts at growing the business dur- ing the previous two decades. A variety of products move through the port, including wood pulp, imported graphic and packaging paper, plywood and hardwood. Baltimore’s deal with UPM continues to bring plenty of printing paper, used mainly in catalogs, specialty papers, label materials and other wood products. And as the US housing market continues to gain steam, the volumes for wood products could increase.
“We have invested heavily in our facilities and welcome any opportunity to show the port to those who work with forest products distri- bution,” said Rick Schiappacasse, director of Latin America, the Caribbean and Forest Prod- ucts. “Our facilities are rather different in that they are very close to the berth so that clamp trucks and other equipment work in close proximity between the ship and warehouse. They are all purposely built for forest products.”
One of the fastest-growing cargoes at Baltimore, wood pulp also might be one of the most promising aspects of the port’s future. BalTerm, in its partnership with the Port of Baltimore and the MPA, recently increased the warehouse space at the Dundalk Marine Terminal by 300,000 square feet, an increased designed as part of the capacity expansion projects to handle more wood pulp from Brazil. This brought the total covered warehouse space available for forest products cargo to more than 1.3 million square feet.
Other enhancements have also been recently completed. At Dundalk, two new berths with a 45-foot draft were added to the existing 416,000 square feet of warehousing. And a new 215,000 square foot warehouse and stern ramp have im- proved the facilities at South Locust Point.
“Both of our main forest products terminals have very well developed inland distribution areas both by rail and for trucks,” said Schiappa- casse. “There are no major traffic lights between our facilities and interstate highway access to expedite delivery to the final destination.”
BalTerm has undergone a minor change as well in the last two years. To close out 2009, Logistec purchased its partner’s 50% interest in BalTerm, making the company a wholly owned subsidiary of the Logistec Corporation. The ac- quisition brought BalTerm closer to Logistec’s stevedoring and terminal operations that operate in 23 ports through eastern Canada, the Great Lakes and the US East Coast. For all in- tensive purposes, however, the daily operations at BalTerm are unchanged.
“We are looking to grow our forest products,” said Schiappacasse. “Baltimore is starting to receive some of the new tonnage from Brazil and this will be the most dramatic volume increase in some time. I think every port will be challenged to keep up infrastructure with the kinds of volumes expected. I think we are very well prepared because we made continuous investments in facilities.”
Welcome to GreenPort
Economic success at the Port of Baltimore is closely aligned with the care of Maryland’s nature resources and the well being of its neighboring communities. The port and the MPA believe that taking responsibility for clear air and water is not only good for business, but helps drive it. To that end, Baltimore has made a “green” commitment to its customers and neighbors.
For several years, Baltimore has been devel- oping an Environmental Management System (EMS) that infuses a stewardship ethic into the daily tasks around the port, as well as making it part of any long-term planning. The EMS addresses pollution prevention, compliance with government rules, and an outreach to private sector partners. These efforts highlight the need for an overall environmental strategy, but spe- cifically target air quality, energy efficiency, and storm water management.
The dredging of the shipping channels are a critical part of Baltimore’s operations, but also a part of their long-term economic and business strategy. Without the dredging efforts of the past few years, Baltimore not be able to attract the larger super post-Panamax ships. However, the need for constant dredging can create a serious disruption to the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay channel.
Working closely with scientists, engineers, citizen groups, and regulatory agencies, Balti- more has minimized the impacts of dredging and put systems in place to monitor water quality at each of its dredged material placement sites. The environmental impacts of dredging are balanced with projects that have used dredged material to restore islands, enhance community parks, and replace schoolyard pavement with green space.
The MPA is the largest creator of wetlands in Maryland. In the last few years, the MPA has created and enhanced wetlands at the Poplar Island, Hart-Miller, Masonville cover, and Cox Creek dredged material placement sites. These shoreline settings have become a mecca for migrating birds and other wildlife. Baltimore is also actively coordinating their efforts with state and local partners to meet federally mandated goals for water qual- ity in the Chesapeake Bay, known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). This includes steps to reduce nutrient loads and sediment in storm water runoff, as well as in water decanted from dredged sites.
Efficiency upgrades are saving money and reducing the carbon footprint at the Port of Baltimore and other MPA facilities. Rooftop solar systems at South Locust Point are powering the buildings during peak hours. Together, these upgrades are estimated to have reduced energy consumption by 28.7% and water consumption by 24.6%.
Finally, a multi-year Clean Diesel program has continued with the installation of clean die- sel technologies on cargo handling equipment, dray trucks, locomotives, and harbor crafts. This has further reduced emissions of particulates, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. For its efforts, the MPA received the ISO 14001 certification, recognizing that its Environmen- tal Management System has met international standards. This achievement is only one part of how the Port of Baltimore is working to promote economy, community and the environmental as integrated priorities in Baltimore’s mission to be one of the world’s leading ports.