Port of Baltimore welcomes four additional gigantic cranes to service container ships

Additions allow port to handle two ultra-large ships simultaneously

Port of Baltimore welcomes four additional gigantic cranes to service container ships
Photo: Port of Baltimore

Following a two-month journey that included dramatic passage under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Francis Scott Key Bridge, four new, massive NeoPanamax container cranes have arrived at the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore’s Seagirt Marine Terminal. The cranes were delivered aboard the Zhen Hua 24 from China.

MDOT Secretary Greg Slater said:

“Baltimore is already one of the few ports on the East Coast capable of accommodating the world’s largest container ships. These new cranes will allow the Port to serve two ultra-large container ships simultaneously, boosting our capacity and giving us the opportunity to increase revenue and grow the jobs that help fuel Maryland’s economy.”

The new cranes are fully electric, and thus emit no diesel emissions. Each measures 450 feet tall and weighs about 1,740 tons – 25 feet taller and 190 tons heavier than the Port’s first set of Neo-Panamax cranes that arrived in 2012. The new cranes can each extend to reach 23 containers across on a ship and lift 187,500 pounds of cargo. Ports America Chesapeake will test and prepare the cranes over the next few months, and they are expected to be fully operational in early 2022.

The cranes are part of a significant expansion by Ports America Chesapeake at Seagirt to provide greater capacity and efficiency to handle anticipated increases in container volumes. The $166 million investment in terminal and yard upgrades includes a second, 50-foot-deep berth to accommodate mega-ships; new container handling equipment such as 15 hybrid-electric gantry cranes; and a new truck gate complex.

Ports America Chesapeake also is making software and technology upgrades at Seagirt, and in February relocated a container repair depot off-dock to provide more fluid container delivery and pick-up.

There is a need for utilization of more gateways such as Baltimore to handle cargo in the United States. Import/export demand for container cargo has substantially increased over the past year and with that, port congestion is an all-time high. Due to the high number of local distribution, fulfillment and sorting centers in the area, Baltimore is a prime gateway for goods heading to the e-commerce market and for cargo sent to the Midwest via rail. The Port of Baltimore has served 23 “ad hoc” ships over the past year – vessels diverted to Baltimore that were not on a regularly scheduled service call – totaling more than 35,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) containers. 

Bayard Hogans, vice president of Ports America Chesapeake, said:

“As part of our over $166 million investment in terminal initiatives, the four new ship-to-shore cranes will create more capacity, increase productivity and improve efficiency at the Seagirt Marine Terminal."

Containers coming through the Port of Baltimore have increased significantly since MDOT MPA and Ports America Chesapeake entered into a public-private partnership agreement in 2010. In 2009, the year prior to the agreement, Seagirt handled 257,367 containers. In 2020, after the first 10 years of the agreement, Seagirt handled 628,132 containers, an increase of 144%.

MDOT MPA and Ports America Chesapeake also recently secured two new container services, Maersk TP20 and Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) Indus 2. The Maersk TP20 service consists of a string of approximately 13 ships, each with a capacity of 2,500 to 4,500 TEU containers, traveling through Southeast Asia/Vietnam and China, then through the Panama Canal to Baltimore and Norfolk. The MSC Indus 2 is an Indian Subcontinent and Mediterranean service consisting of an eight-ship fleet with capacity in the range of 8,500 TEUs. The Indus 2 starts in India and transits the Suez Canal to Italy and Portugal, and onto Norfolk, Baltimore, Miami and Freeport, Bahamas.

Complementing the new Seagirt berth are plans to expand Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel, which will allow for double-stacked container rail cars to travel to and from the Port, clearing a longtime hurdle and giving the East Coast seamless double-stack capacity from Maine to Florida. The project involves clearance improvements in the tunnel and at 22 other locations between Baltimore and Philadelphia. With the tunnel expansion project, Baltimore will be able to send double stacked containers by rail into the Ohio Valley and onto Chicago. In June, the project received final federal environment approval under the National Environmental Policy Act.