Port of Baltimore, Maryland-Water Gateway

Port of Baltimore, Maryland-Water Gateway

The maritime Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore was the nation's ninth busiest waterborne freight gateway for international trade by value of shipments in 2008. It ranked 19th among all air, land, and water gateways, handling more than $45 billion of international freight. In 2008, the merchandise trade handled at Baltimore represented nearly 3 percent of the value of U.S. international waterborne freight shipments, accounting for about 3 percent of U.S. waterborne exports and 3 percent of imports (table 1).

By weight, Baltimore ranked 15th among all U.S. water gateways in 2008. About 33 million tons of international trade-18 million tons of imports and 15 million tons of exports-moved through the port, accounting for more than 2 percent of the total U.S. waterborne freight tonnage. The port handled more than 430,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 2008, about 2 percent of the total U.S. containerized international freight (table 1).

By weight of shipments, Canada was the leading country for imports moving through the port in 2007, and the Netherlands was the leading country for exports (table 2).1 The leading seaport for cargo leaving the Port of Baltimore was Amsterdam, Netherlands. The top origin port for imports was Freeport, Bahamas (table 3).2

More than 1,800 vessel calls were made at the port in 2007. Of these, 23 percent were container ships and 20 percent were dry-bulk ships (table 4).3

The Port of Baltimore is the top seaport for handling automobiles in the United States. In early 2009, the port had about 57,000 new cars at its terminals, and it had to store some at the nearby Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.4 This situation was partly the result of the slowdown in economic activity within the United States and the reduction of consumer spending on durable goods.

The major commodities exported through the Port of Baltimore included coal, general cargo, oil, metal waste and scrap, and other mineral fuel and asphalt. Major imported commodities included general cargo, iron ore, coke, salt, and gypsum.5 Baltimore is one of the major ports on the East Coast specializing in roll-on/roll-off cargo, such as automobiles and earth-moving and large farm machinery.

1 Data for 2008 are not available for weight and vessels calls. Data in tables 2, 3, and 4 are from 2007.

2 Note that the top port is not in the top country listed here because this port handles a larger share of its country's trade with this U.S. gateway. By comparison, trade with the top country is distributed among more ports, and thus each rank lower on the port list.

3 Dry-bulk ships carry homogeneous dry cargoes, such as grain, coal, steel, and iron ore.

4 B. Dennis, Too Many Cars and They're Not on the Road: After "Car Bubble" Collapses, Excess Inventory Creates a Backlog, Washington Post, Apr. 3, 2009, A1.

5 Maryland Port Administration website, www.mpa.state.md.us/info/index.htm as of Aug. 10, 2009.