The port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal took delivery of six new yard cranes Wednesday, an investment officials hope will help alleviate traffic congestion caused by a sharp increase in the number of containers being shipped through the port in the past 18 months.
The 325,500-pound rubber-tired gantry cranes, used to move and stack containers on the docks, were purchased for $12 million by Ports America Chesapeake, the private company that runs Seagirt, the container terminal, under a 50-year, $1.3 billion partnership with the Maryland Port Administration, state officials said.
“Working closely with our partner Ports America Chesapeake, our administration will continue to support the port and the thousands of hard-working Maryland men and women who rely on this crown jewel to support their families,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement.
Ports America Chesapeake did not respond to a request for comment.
Baltimore’s port remains smaller than its rivals in New York and Norfolk, Va., but it was North America’s fourth-fastest-growing port in 2016, with nearly 10 percent growth in general cargo, according to the Journal of Commerce.
Container growth at the port hasn’t slowed since the expanded Panama Canal opened in 2016, giving Asian manufacturers and shipping lines a wider shortcut to the U.S. East Coast. Baltimore handled a record 596,972 containers in 2017, 11 percent more than the previous year, officials said.
But the increase in volume in Baltimore has come with growing pains, such as long traffic backups on Broening Highway outside the port, as truckers wait to pick up or drop off containers.
The state spent $55 million last year to add more land for the port for the first time in 30 years to provide adequate container capacity through 2030.
The gantry cranes, which will be added to a current fleet of 16 currently in service, will allow longshoremen to move the boxes more quickly and get truckers through the port faster, port spokesman Richard Scher said.
“We’ve had to adjust to the growth, and we have had some situations where we’ve had some congestion inside the container terminal,” Scher said. “Even though we’ve had some significant growth over the past 18 months, it’s imperative we continue to invest with infrastructure to continue to aid that growth.”