Baltimore Bridge Collapse: How’s it Affecting Logistics?

The sudden and shocking collapse of the Frances Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore in the early hours of March 26 2024, after a container ship struck one of the bridges’ supports when it lost power, was a tragic accident that sadly resulted in the loss of 6 bridge maintenance workers’ lives.

Shockwaves were sent throughout the country, as well as the entire logistics industry, as the bridge’s sudden collapse meant almost all shipping ground to a halt in and out of the busy port of Baltimore. Immediately after the incident, the knock-on effect was significant, with 8,000 jobs affected. The Governor of Maryland refers to the event as a “global crisis”. The outcome so far has seen extreme shipping and supply chain delays.

The port of Baltimore, not only serviced ships, but was also a major depot for trucks and railheads alike. Leaving an entire ecosystem of logistics operations in despair. Let’s take a closer look into how the collapse of the Baltimore Bridge is delaying shipments of all kinds and how the effects of the collapse are being felt way beyond Baltimore and the surrounding areas.

Immediate Effects: Port Closure & Rerouting

Halted Operations

The complete closure of the port of Baltimore, meant halting both inbound and outbound vessels indefinitely. This left cargo ships stranded without means of loading or unloading. This halted flow of ships could really hurt the local economy and add immense strain to logistics operations nationwide.

The Baltimore bridge collapse has thrown the livelihoods of thousands into question. An estimated 8,000 port workers, from longshoremen to administrative staff, are facing immediate financial strain with the halt in shipping operations. This translates to $2 million in lost wages every single day the port remains closed.


Debris is now clogging the port, and making it near impossible to safely enter the vicinity for container ships. Forcing shipping companies to reroute all vessels en route to Baltimore to other East Coast ports. New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Norfolk have all emerged as key alternative ports to container vessels.

Interstate 695 & Surrounding Roads

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, a major traffic artery carrying Interstate 695 across the Patapsco River in Baltimore, handled over 34,000 vehicles daily in 2023. This represents 15% of Baltimore’s total harbor crossing traffic. Its collapse has forced the closure of this busy roadway, causing truck drivers to take longer, less efficient detours. This results in further delays and increased operational costs, including labor and fuel. With the bridge closed, the remaining two crossings will see a huge surge, absorbing an additional 18% in volume, potentially leading to severe congestion.

Google Map showing Route 695 and Baltimore Bridge


With all rail-served port terminals unaccessible to vessels at Baltimore port, rail transport, which is the most efficient land-based mode of transport, has been significantly impacted. Vessel operators like Maersk have stated they are “omitting” The Port of Baltimore in favour of offloading at other East Coast Ports.

This comes as rail lines that ran across the bridge are closed, effectively cutting off rail freight to/from the Port of Baltimore. This includes lines operated by CSX and Norfolk Southern.


The Wider Impact & Long-Term Implications

Congestion Across Nearby Ports

It became apparent pretty quickly that the Baltimore port would be inaccessible and out of action for an extended period of time, following the harrowing strike from the container ship. Traffic was quickly diverted to other nearby ports, that were not expecting nor designed for this sudden influx of ships, causing large amounts of port congestion and delayed wait times for vessels.

Vehicle Imports & Exports

The Port of Baltimore specializes in importing and exporting large, self-propelled vehicles. It’s the top US hub for “roll-on, roll-off” shipments of cars, trucks, tractors and construction equipment. In 2023, these shipments accounted for $27 billion in imports and $8 billion in exports via this port alone. With vessels being unable to access the port, the vehicle & equipment industries are forced to reroute all shipments away from the Port of Baltimore.

If, or how this will affect the economics of these industries is unclear. Will we see increased sticker prices on these products as a result of higher transport costs? Right now, only time will tell.

The Economic Toll

Though trucks still access the port following the disaster, the absence of maritime traffic paints a bleak picture. Each day of lost ship traffic represents a $9 million hit to the economy. The overall economic toll will likely be far higher, as billions in goods are rerouted and supply chains face long-term disruption. This also means significant losses in tax revenue for the city and state.


The Rebuild Process


In the wake of this disaster there are now two key timeframes most people in the logistics space are anxious to understand in the near term:

1. When will the debris be cleared from the channel?

2. And when will it be opened up again for vessels to pass through it?

Once the channel is able to open up again, the annual $81 billion in goods that passes through the port can resume. This will ease up congestion at other ports in the country which are, for the meantime being used as alternatives. It’s still too early to know exactly how long the clean up operation will take to clear the debris, but CNBC reports that the goal is to have the main 50-foot-deep channel reopened by the end of May 2024.


Looking further beyond just the channel’s reopening, many are wondering how long it’ll be before the bridge is fully rebuilt and operational. This comes as the congestion around Interstate 695 and the surrounding roads continues to be a source of frustration for both the citizens of Baltimore as well as those within the supply chain impacted by the delays caused by traffic.

Like above, it’s still too early to know how long it’ll take for the bridge to be rebuilt. Estimates range from 18 months to several years, with the costs possibly exceeding $400 million.

A Note From PEI

All of us at PEI extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who tragically lost their lives in the bridge collapse. Our thoughts are with those affected during this unimaginably difficult time.

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