Port of Baltimore’s indefinite closure deals blow to city, state economy 

Maryland at risk of losing $1 billion in total value of goods and services

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday after it was struck by a container ship has disrupted the Port of Baltimore’s container shipping services, which will impact the economy of the city and beyond, analysts said.

Six people are missing and presumed dead after the Singapore-flagged MV Dali slammed into the bridge in the early morning hours, sending debris into the Patapsco River that continues to block a large portion of the channel that leads into Baltimore’s harbor.

The state of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the closure of the shipping lane to the port until further notice as the investigation, recovery and cleanup get underway.

Economist Anirban Basu said that along with the Johns Hopkins Health System, the Port of Baltimore is one of the main drivers of the city and state economy, and its indefinite closure will impact jobs and revenue across the region.

Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, with a population of about 576,000. It has more than 2.8 million in its metropolitan area.

“I would say the Port of Baltimore is the leading economic driver for the region in Baltimore,” Basu, chairman and CEO of Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group Inc., told FreightWaves. “One could argue that the leading driver is Johns Hopkins. It’s a difficult comparison, because you’re talking about two very different fields of endeavor. But the Baltimore region has been one of the nation’s underperformers in recent years. In the Baltimore region, we have had to clawback the jobs lost early during the pandemic.”

The port is the deepest harbor in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, with five public and 12 private terminals. It handled over $80 billion worth of cargo in 2023. It serves more than 50 ocean carriers making nearly 1,800 annual port calls.

The port generated nearly $3.3 billion in total personal income and supports 15,330 direct jobs and 139,180 jobs connected to the port, according to state data.

“If you were to compare the jobs in the Baltimore region in February of 2020 just before the pandemic, to February of 2024, the Baltimore region is down 34,900 jobs, the state of Maryland is down 41,100 jobs, while the nation is up 5.5 million jobs during this period …,” Basu said. “But one thing we could say in Baltimore was that we are anchored by the Port of Baltimore, that whatever has happened with our corporate headquarters, many of them have just disappeared, but the Port of Baltimore was not going anywhere.”
According to recent data from Implan, the port’s 15,000-plus direct employees could lose an estimated $275 million in labor income if container operations are down for a month.
Implan is a Huntersville, North Carolina-based economic software and analysis firm. 

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