Baltimore: Still number one for Ro/Ro in the United States



J.B. Hanson, Public Information Officer, Maryland Port Administration, Baltimore, USA


It’s no accident that Maryland’s Port of Baltimore is the nation’s leader in Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro/Ro) cargo. The combination of geography, intermodal services, space and quality handling has kept the Port holding the number-one ranking for years. Nearly 50 percent of all the Ro/Ro cargo handled on the East Coast is transported through the waters of the Chesapeake Bay; this number is more than double the next largest port.

Baltimore’s port is 150 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. By the time vessels arrive at any one of the six public facilities operated by the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) or the seven private facilities capable of handling Ro/Ro, their cargo has come closer to tens of millions of Americans than any other East Coast port. In no longer than an overnight drive, goods transferred from vessels at Baltimore’s port can reach far into America’s heartland, thereby providing goods to two-thirds of the nation’s population. Such a turn-around time from ship to store has made Maryland’s Port of Baltimore the number one choice for importers and exporters of many of the nation’s largest manufacturers of combines, tractors, hay balers and other heavy equipment.

In 2003, 411,489 tonnes of Ro/Ro passed through the Port. In 2004, 586,123 tonnes of Ro/Ro were shipped and received. With the continued growth of manufactured goods on a global scale, current indicators are showing that Ro/Ro tonnage for 2005 will exceed previous years.

In 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio rail line began to change what was known as the New Frontier. Suddenly, commerce and its creators could move rapidly over the tracks of steel. Baltimore became a hub of industry. With a new rail line, goods that would have taken weeks to get to the growing cities in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Illinois could be there in days. The rail service from Baltimore became an artery of commerce for the new meccas of the west. Today, rail service out of the Port is a vital link to industries in need of raw materials from around the world as well as the mechanism to export American goods created for a global market. CSX and Norfolk-Southern are primary rail services to and from the Port. Recently, the NS line made physical improvements which enhanced their ability to transport larger goods in and out of the harbour.

Another important intermodal component is the trucking industry. Maryland has over 22,000 miles of public roads, including 12 Interstate highways. The distance to these arteries of commerce from the terminals is as close as five minutes for some and no longer than an hour for others. With more than 70 per cent of the Port’s general cargo handled by truck, the Port has updated its automated process at the gates to process trucks in a highly efficient and timely manner. The computerised system and flex-time programme allows Ro/Ro and other cargo to be processed continuously from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the Dundalk Terminal and 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the Seagirt Terminal. Car carriers work twenty hours a day, seven days a week. This kind of flow is one of the many reasons why Maryland’s Port of Baltimore is number one in Roll-On/ Roll-Off cargo. In 1998, new guidelines were put in place to streamline oversized and overweight cargo. Approximately 250 trucking companies connect the Port to all parts of the United States and Canada.


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