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27 Mar, 2024 10:12

US supply chains disrupted by Baltimore bridge collapse

One of the country’s major ports was brought to a halt due to the accident
US supply chains disrupted by Baltimore bridge collapse

The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, which has cut off ocean routes to the city’s major port, is expected to cause severe disruptions to local transport and logistics, producing ripple effects on global supply chains.

The four-lane bridge collapsed on Tuesday after being hit by the Singapore-registered container ship Dali, operated by Danish shipping giant Maersk. As a result of the accident, a large section of the 1.6-mile (2.6km) bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River, with multiple vehicles falling nearly 55 meters into the water.

Built in the 1970s, the Francis Scott Key Bridge spans the Patapsco River, and is the only passage connecting the US’ ninth-biggest foreign trading port to the ocean. The Port of Baltimore is the country’s busiest maritime terminal for exports of vehicles.

According to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, no other port in the country brings in more vehicles than Baltimore, with up to 850,000 cars and light trucks going in and out of its terminals annually. Parts used in vehicle assembly also pass through the port or across the bridge.

The major hub for East Coast shipping also handles significant volumes of coal. During the second quarter of 2023, the port’s facilities had the second-highest coal export capacities, data tracked by S&P Global shows.

Ten ships are reportedly stuck inside the port, unable to leave as the collapsed bridge spanned the only way in and out of the harbor. Another 30 small cargo vessels, tug boats, and other craft are also trapped in the port. Nearly 40 ships heading for Baltimore were forced to divert.

Commenting on the tragedy, US President Joe Biden said the bridge is vital to the economy, citing concerns about traffic and jobs connected to the port. He noted that the port supports around 15,000 jobs and that over 30,000 vehicles used the bridge each day.

Officials closed the port to ship traffic following the incident. Rescue efforts are underway as the authorities search for six people who are still missing.

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