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The collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore last week, caused by the allision of Maersk-chartered m/v Dali, has closed the Port of Baltimore to cargo vessel traffic indefinitely. The timeline for reopening the harbor is unclear due to the extensive challenges involved in the recovery and clean-up operation. The Port of Baltimore is opening a small channel for emergency and essential traffic only for now. Vessels outside the harbor are being re-routed to nearby Mid-Atlantic and Northeast ports. Ship lines have declared force majeure and are issuing updates to sailing schedules. Container volumes typically handled by the Port of Baltimore are modest compared to other major East Coast ports, and the neighboring ports are optimistic they can absorb Baltimore volumes temporarily. Baltimore is a major player in volumes of non-containerized cargoes such as automobiles, coal, and breakbulk, however; accommodating those volumes at other East Coast ports may be more complicated.

We expect that truck power at East Coast ports absorbing Baltimore volumes may become tight while cargo is diverted. According to the Journal of Commerce, PortsAmerica, which operates SeaGirt terminal in Baltimore, is discussing plans with CSX and Norfolk Southern to utilize regional rail shuttle service. Under the proposed plan, the rail shuttles would move containers between Baltimore terminals and other ports in an effort to mitigate long-haul container drayage that will be required for cargoes moving via other ports to and from the Baltimore region.

The situation in Baltimore is very fluid. We will provide updates as developments occur.

On the West Coast, backlogs are growing at major ports due to rail congestion. Volumes have been strong so far in 2024; the Journal of Commerce reports that year-over-year, import volume from Asia surged 18% in January and 40% in February. Ports from Vancouver to LA/long Beach are feeling the pressure. We’ve seen delays as long as 2-3 weeks between arrival and loading onto the rail for transport to inland points. This is an issue to watch, especially with the looming port labor contract negotiations on the East and Gulf Coast. If shippers become concerned about potential delays at East and Gulf Coast ports, volumes could shift and strain West Coast operations even further.

On the Asia to US trade, rates have been falling from their pre-Lunar New Year highs. There is a wide range of spot rates in the market as carriers attempt to keep the official spot rates elevated while offering special spot deals on specific voyages. Contract negotiations are underway for the next contract year, and increases over last year’s fixed rate levels are expected.

Overall, with volumes unexpectedly strong so far this year, challenges and uncertainties abound. We’re watching for developments on Panama Canal water levels, Suez routing detours, US East/Gulf Coast labor negotiations, congestion at US West Coast ports, and impacts of this latest disruption at Baltimore, among others. We always recommend advance planning, staying close with your customer service reps, and keeping contingency plans top of mind.


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Rachel Shames

VP, Pricing & Procurement

CV International, Inc.


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Rachel serves as Vice President, Pricing and Procurement for CVI. Her responsibilities include vendor selection, contract management and negotiation, transportation pricing, FMC compliance, and international agent network management.

Rachel began her career in international shipping with CMA-CGM America. She joined CVI in 2011, gaining experience in various departments with a focus on inside sales and marketing for the company. In 2014, Rachel assumed the role of Manager, Transportation, working on service procurement and development of client proposals. She has served in her current position since 2018.

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Rachel earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 2005. She holds a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Maritime and Supply Chain Management from Old Dominion University.

– Rachel Shames, VP, Pricing & Procurement, CVI
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