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Mercedes-Benz Reroutes to Baltimore to Avoid West Coast Congestion

Mercedes and other shippers rerouting to avoid port congestion
Mercedes-Benz offloaded 600 new cars scheduled to go to the West Coast in Baltimore to avoid port congestion (Port of Baltimore)

Published Dec 14, 2021 7:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Port of Baltimore officials are hoping a few more people will be finding a shiny new car in their driveways to celebrate the holidays thanks to a combined effort in the port to handle a rerouted shipment of Mercedes-Benz vehicles that arrived at the port yesterday. It is just the latest in several examples of shippers rerouting and using Baltimore and other less congested ports to bypass the headline-making congestion at the U.S.’s busiest ports.

The British-registered car carrier Noble Ace arrived in Baltimore on December 13 having departed Germany at the end of November and having made a stop at the Port of New York and New Jersey. The car carrier discharged 1,800 new Mercedes-Benz vehicles, doubling the planned discharge due to the congestion at the U.S. West Coast ports. According to Baltimore officials, approximately 600 of the vehicles had been scheduled to be unloaded on the West Coast, but instead came ashore in Baltimore with the shipper using alternatives to get them to their destination.

“Cargo continues to move through the Port of Baltimore,” said Maryland Port Administration Executive Director William P. Doyle. “Our creative RoRo solutions for cargo and strong e-commerce abilities, combined with our efficient warehousing and distribution markets, are making us an extremely attractive option for cargo owners to avoid supply chain issues at other ports.”

The Mercedes-Benz shipment is one of several recent examples where shippers have opted for alternatives to avoid port congestion. The Port of Baltimore also recently began handling fuselage components of the Airbus A220 series of aircraft in an arrangement worked out with shipping firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen, ocean carrier Airbus, and logistics partner Louis Dreyfus Freight Solutions. The components are being loaded at the Port of Dalian in China, transiting the Panama Canal, and now being offloaded in Baltimore to be shipped to an assembly plant in Canada.

Japan-based Kubota, which is one of the largest manufacturers of farming equipment in the world, has also been forced to adapt its shipping due to the lack of containership capacity. The Port of Baltimore has begun handling Kubota farm and construction equipment arriving on Ro-Ro vessels instead of container ships that the manufacturer used in the past.

Since July 2020, 26 ships have diverted to the Port of Baltimore due to nationwide port congestion. These ad hoc calls were in addition to expanded service with both Maersk and MSC. Baltimore is included for both one of MSC’s routes between India and the Mediterranean, while Maersk started a new Southeast Asia/Vietnam and China service through Baltimore.

“The Port of Baltimore has had a successful year recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and has played a key role supporting the supply chain up and down the East Coast deep into America,” said MDOT Secretary Greg Slater. “The infrastructure investments Maryland and its partners are making at the Port are laying the foundation for new jobs, greater capacity, and even more business in the future.”

Last month, a groundbreaking was held for Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel Expansion project, which will allow for double-stacked container rail cars moving from the port and giving CSX rail on the East Coast seamless double-stack capacity from Maine to Florida. The project is expected to increase the Port’s business by about 160,000 containers annually.  The Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal also added four additional ultra-large, Neo-Panamax cranes which will begin service early in 2022 making Baltimore is one of a few East Coast ports with the ability to handle some of the world’s largest vessels, and a new deep berth will allow two of these massive ships to be serviced at the same time.