With official 2016 shipping numbers finally on the books, a good year for the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore has turned into a great one.
The port announced today that it handled record levels of general cargo and shipping containers last year. The official tallies were 10.1 million tons of cargo, up from 9.6 million tons — a 5 percent increase — in 2015, and around 538,600 individual containers, up from 523,900 — a 3 percent increase — the year before.
The jump in cargo volume was the largest year-over-year increase since 2012, according to Maryland Port Administration data. The port’s performance was particularly strong in December, when the number of containers jumped 23 percent over December 2015, per a release from the governor’s office.
A spokesman for the Port of Baltimore didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
In a statement, Gov. Larry Hogan attributed the increase to the “strategic investments” his administration has made in the port, such as super-sized cranes, that he said allowed the port to handle so-called mega-ships arriving there by way of the recently widened Panama Canal in Central America.
“With the arrival of these larger ships bringing more cargo, the Port of Baltimore is truly open for business,” Hogan said.
The accomplishment is part of a growing list over the past year: In December, the logistics-focused Journal of Commerce ranked the port the most productive in the country for the third time in two years (one of those titles came mid-year in 2015); in October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the port a $1 million grant to upgrade its heavy equipment to reduce emissions; last August, the port secured a 10-year contract extension with Finnish paper firm UPM, its top forest product customer; and the month before, the port welcomed its first-ever mega ship.
Looking ahead, the Port of Baltimore could continue expanding its shipping capacity if the state secures the needed funding to expand the Howard Street Tunnel, which carries cargo through and away from the city.
Presently, the tunnel can only fit single containers, but if Hogan gets his requested $155 million grant from the federal government, Maryland will have enough money to widen the tunnel to accommodate double-stacked containers.