Automakers are rerouting shipments after the Baltimore bridge collapse


Several major automakers said Tuesday they were working to reroute car shipments due to the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

According to the Maryland Port Administration, the Port of Baltimore plays a significant role in vehicle shipments and will handle more than 750,000 cars and trucks in 2023. It ranks first in the United States in volume of automobiles and light trucks and ships carrying wheeled cargo, including farm and construction machinery, according to a statement from Maryland Governor Wes Moore last month.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the rerouting would affect the national supply chain. “The path to normality will not be easy,” he said. “It will not be quick, and it will not be cheap.”

Automakers using the port include General Motors, Ford Motor, Stellantis, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Some automakers said they were planning to divert vehicle imports and exports to other East Coast ports while they assessed how the collapse would impact their logistics.

Stellantis, owner of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM, said in a statement, “We are beginning discussions with our various transportation providers on contingency plans to ensure the uninterrupted flow of vehicles to our customers and are monitoring this situation carefully. Will continue to monitor.”

GM said it expected the disaster to have “minimal impact” on its operations. It is also considering taking vehicles to other ports. Toyota Motor said it did not expect “significant disruption” but that some of its exports could be affected. Volkswagen said it did not expect to be affected by the accident because its receiving facility in the Port of Baltimore is on the eastern side of the bridge, which is still accessible to ships.

Baltimore is important for auto imports partly because it is closer to the Midwest than other East Coast ports. It is also equipped to handle special vessels, known as Roll On, Roll Off vessels, which are widely used to transport vehicles overseas. Such ships allow vehicles to be loaded from one end of the ship at their port of departure and offloaded from the other end at their destination port.

Automakers may want to divert cars to the Port of Brunswick, Georgia. That port already handles roll on, roll off ships and is in the midst of a major expansion project. Georgia officials predict that Brunswick will overtake Baltimore in vehicle shipping by 2026.

The port in Charleston, SC, also handles many imported and exported automobiles.

“We are in close contact with our logistics service providers and are constantly monitoring the situation,” Mercedes-Benz said in a statement. “There are many options available within our flexible supply chain network.”


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