Auto imports continue to surge at port of Baltimore

Already the No. 1 U.S. port for vehicle shipments, Baltimore saw auto imports surge 20 percent in 2015.

The port of Baltimore's business as the nation's No. 1 point of entry for automobiles continued to boom in 2015 as the number of cars shipped through its public terminals surged 20 percent to yet another record.

Shippers imported 399,618 cars last year, up from 331,746 in 2014, the Maryland Port Administration announced Wednesday. Overall, 753,265 vehicles were moved through the port, the highest volume among U.S. ports for the fifth consecutive year.

The port also broke a record for shipping containers, handling 523,848 shipping containers, up 8 percent from the previous record set in 2014, but general cargo tonnage dipped slightly to 9.6 million tons from last year's record of 9.7 million tons. General cargo includes containers, cars and so-called break-bulk cargo.

"The port of Baltimore is one of the nation's busiest ports, as well as one of Maryland's leading economic engines," Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement.

The port began receiving weekly container shipments from international shipping giant Maersk Line last year, and it signed a new 30-year contract with Wallenius Wilhelmson Logistics, a major vehicle and farm and construction equipment shipper.

"In addition to welcoming the world's largest container shipping company and signing another giant to a long-term contract, over the last year, the port set numerous records proving again that Maryland is truly open for business," Hogan said.

Overall, Baltimore saw 32.4 million tons of international cargo — valued at approximately $51.1 billion — cross the docks of its public and private marine terminals last year. It ranked ninth among U.S. ports for the total dollar value of cargo and 13th for cargo tonnage, the port administration said.

Bucking a national decline, coal exports from Baltimore jumped 10 percent, the port administration said. Overall U.S. coal exports fell 23 percent on weak global demand, but Baltimore, the No. 2 U.S. coal port behind Norfolk, Va., benefited from increased exports to India, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Maryland Port Authority said the port generates about 13,650 direct jobs and is responsible for nearly $3 billion in personal wages and salary. Statewide, more than 127,000 jobs are linked to port activities, and it creates more than $310 million in state and local tax revenues, the port authority said.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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