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Automakers divert car shipments from Baltimore

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

The Port of Baltimore plays an important role in vehicle shipping and handled more than 750,000 cars and trucks in 2023, according to the Maryland Port Administration. It ranks first in the United States for the volume of automobiles and light trucks it handles and for vessels carrying cargo on wheels, including agricultural and construction machinery, according to A declaration by Governor Wes Moore of Maryland last month.

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

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

Some automakers said they planned to divert vehicle imports and exports to other East Coast ports while assessing the impact of the collapse on their logistics.

“We are beginning discussions with our various transportation providers on contingency plans to ensure an uninterrupted flow of vehicles to our customers and will continue to carefully monitor this situation,” said Stellantis, owner of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, in a press release.

GM said it expected the disaster to have “minimal impact” on its operations. It is also seeking to redirect 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 collapse because its receiving facilities at the Port of Baltimore are on the east side of the bridge, which is still accessible to ships.

Baltimore is important for auto imports, in part because it is closer to the Midwest than other East Coast ports. It is also equipped to accommodate specialized vessels, called roll-on, roll off vessels, which are widely used to transport vehicles overseas. Such vessels allow vehicles to be driven on board at one end of the vessel at their port of departure and disembarked from the vessel at the other end at their port of destination.

Port-based automakers may seek to divert their cars to the Port of Brunswick in Georgia. This port already hosts ro-ro ships and is in the middle of a major expansion project. Georgia officials have predicted that Brunswick will overtake Baltimore in vehicle transportation as early as 2026.

The Port of Charleston, South Carolina 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. “We have several options within our flexible supply chain network. »

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