Port Baltimore Disrupts Equipment Supply

April 3, 2024
Ongoing coverage from the Endeavor Business Media family of publications.

Editor's note: This article has been updated. 

Baltimore is ranked third for imports and exports of construction equipment, according to an analysis by Alexander Jones, Interact Analysis, citing U.S. Census figures. He said imports outpace exports on the equipment side fivefold.

According to the Port Authority, its proximity to Midwest construction equipment manufacturers has helped it become the leading U.S. port for importing excavators and backhoes. It has nearly 200 acres of pavement at Dundalk Marine Terminal where it can handle more Ro/Ro equipment than competing ports, according to the Port Authority.

What construction equipment shipments are affected?

Port Baltimore is the closest East Coast port to the Midwest, home of several equipment manufacturers. In addition to whole goods, manufacturers import parts. Delivery times will lengthen as manufacturers seek other points of entry. Jones says that even as different ports pick up the slack, manufacturers will need to find temporary storage space and change on-road transportation routes.

Delays will also depend on equipment type, Jones said. Equipment manufactured in the United States, for example, should not be in short supply. The costs associated with the adjustments that manufacturers need to make to handle the chokepoint in Baltimore will likely result in short-term price increases for specific models of machine, Jones said.

Construction Equipment asked several manufacturers how the Port closure is affecting their ability to import machines and parts. Not all have responded.

  • Komatsu: The closure is impacting operations on both the export and import sides. “The company is working diligently to route products and parts to other ports to prevent delays from our customers,” said a spokesperson.
  • Kubota: The Wall Street Journal reported (link requires registration) that Kubota is redirecting shipments to the Port of Virginia and trucking to Baltimore, increasing its trucking costs. "Our number one concern is protecting the dealer and the customer from any kind of shipping disruption," he said.
  • Volvo Construction Equipment: The impact is minimal, said a spokesperson. “Few” machines are stuck in port, but nothing significant.
  • Bobcat: The closure has not had any major impacts to imports or exports, said a spokesperson, but its Logistics team is working closely with shipping partners to monitor future impacts.
  • Wacker Neuson: The collapse has only had a minor impact, as only larger models go through Baltimore, said a spokesperson. "Our ocean freight forwarders are very proactive in situations like these and have diverted future shipments to other locations."
  • John Deere: No comment.
  • Caterpillar: No comment.
  • Case Construction Equipment: CNH Industrial is actively monitoring the situation, according to a spokesperson, but "we do not expect it to have any material impact on our ability to serve our customers."

At left, audio of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police dispatch and response to the Key Bridge Collapse, from Officer (see below).

About the Author

Rod Sutton

I have served as the editorial lead of Construction Equipment magazine and ConstructionEquipment.com since 2001. 

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