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Bridge collapse could see logistics shift to Pacific coast, says west coast digital platform

The collapse of the Key Bridge will cause weeks or months of transportation disruptions in the Mid-Atlantic region and would probably accelerate a shift of cargo to the US West Coast, claimed Ryan Petersen, the founder and CEO of San Francisco-based digital freight platform Flexport Inc. “Companies have already begun shifting volumes from the East Coast to the West Coast. Baltimore being taken offline means all the other ports on the East Coast are getting this bubble of cargo — creating congestion and delays.”

Petersen said that a sudden 10% or 20% increase in volumes through a port would be “enough to cause massive backlogs, congestion, ships waiting offshore and all sorts of delays that can compound on themselves”.

Dean Croke, principal industry analyst at DAT Freight & Analytics, noted that Baltimore was one of the nation’s leading gateways for farm equipment and construction machines. He said that March was “the peak import month in Baltimore for farming equipment ahead of planting season in the Midwest”, adding that Baltimore was a key port for construction materials such as lumber and gypsum.

Supply-chain risk assessment firm Everstream Analytics said that Baltimore was a critical hub for steel, aluminium and sugar, and that about 30 to 40 container carriers stopped there each week. “This will disrupt vessel schedules and strain labour and handling capacities at other ports such as Philadelphia and Norfolk — leading to spillover congestion and delays that could last months,” said Everstream’s director of intelligence solutions Mirko Woitzik.

Meanwhile Maersk — which had time-chartered the Dali from Synergy — said that it would be cutting out Baltimore from all its services for the foreseeable future.

Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY, said that “I would anticipate the macroeconomic consequences to be limited,” though it warrants close monitoring. Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Santander US Capital Markets, said that the longer-lasting economic impact would be the disruption to traffic around the Baltimore area for the extended period until the bridge was rebuilt. The I-695 has been knocked out by the collapse of the bridge, which will inevitably lead to higher levels of traffic on the I-95 or I-895.