Port of Baltimore hits record high in container ship traffic

26 February 2024- Governor Wes Moore today announced that the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore’s state-owned public marine terminals, managed by the Maryland Port Administration, and its private terminals handled a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo, worth $80 billion, in 2023. The port’s new record illustrates the rebound from pandemic impacts and worldwide supply chain issues facing the international maritime shipping industry.  

“The Port of Baltimore is the best port in the nation and one of the largest economic generators in Maryland,” said Gov. Moore. “Together, we aren’t just breaking records—we are creating jobs, growing our economy, and building new pathways to opportunity. We must continue our work to make Maryland more competitive by investing in our greatest assets, including our world-class port.”  

Maryland’s Port of Baltimore generates about 15,300 direct jobs, with nearly 140,000 jobs linked to port activities. It ranks first among the nation’s ports for volume of autos and light trucks, roll on/roll off heavy farm and construction machinery, imported sugar, and imported gypsum; ninth among major U.S. ports for foreign cargo handled; and ninth for total foreign cargo value. 

New Port of Baltimore records set in 2023 include: 

  • 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo (previous record was 44.2 million tons in 2019) 
  • $80.8 billion in foreign cargo value (previous record was $74.3 billion in 2022) 
  • 1.3 million tons of roll on/roll off farm and construction machinery (previous record was 1.0 million tons in 2012) 
  • 1.1 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit containers (previous record was 1.0 million in 2019) 
  • 11.7 million tons of general cargo tons (previous record was 11.3 million tons in 2022)
  • 847,158 cars and light trucks, more cars and light trucks than any other U.S. port for 13 consecutive years   

In addition to the records, the Port of Baltimore handled 847,158 cars and light trucks in 2023, the 13th consecutive year it has led all other U.S. ports in that commodity.   

“The Port of Baltimore is a key component in Maryland’s transportation network,” said Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld. “Our strong highway and rail infrastructure network, coupled with the port’s great labor force and strong regional supply chain, allows us to move goods efficiently and get them to consumers quickly.” 

2023 provided other significant achievements for the Port of Baltimore: 

  • ZIM Shipping Lines, one of the world’s largest container shipping companies, doubled its service in Maryland in 2023, increasing its frequency from bi-weekly to weekly calls. ZIM also increased the size of its ships coming into Maryland by nearly 50 percent.          
  • The Evergreen Ever Max, the largest container ship to ever enter the port, arrived with capacity to handle more than 15,000 20-foot equivalent containers. The arrival of ships of this size continues to demonstrate Baltimore’s capabilities of handling supersized vessels, including its ultra-large Neo-Panamax cranes and deep channel. 
  • More than 444,000 individuals cruised out of the Port of Baltimore, representing the third-highest passenger total in the port’s history, and the most since 2012.  
  • Norwegian Cruise Line, one of the top cruise lines in the world, began a new fall and winter cruising schedule in 2023 from the Port of Baltimore. Norwegian offered sailings to New England and Canada as well as the Bahamas and Caribbean. Norwegian will return later this year.   
  • The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration construction began, which will use dredged sediment from Port of Baltimore shipping channels to restore eroding James and Barren Islands and protect Dorchester County’s shoreline. Mid-Bay will eventually replace Poplar Island as the state’s primary receiving site for Chesapeake Bay channel dredged sediment. 

The port’s rising container business will be additionally supported by the CSX-owned Howard Street Tunnel expansion project, which will allow for double-stacked container rail cars and enable seamless double-stack capacity from Maine to Florida. The project involves clearance improvements in the 127-year-old tunnel and at 21 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 on to Chicago. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2027. The Howard Street Tunnel project benefits from public-private investment from the federal government, Maryland, CSX, and others, and is expected to increase the port’s business by about 160,000 containers annually. The project will also generate about 6,550 construction jobs, and an additional 7,300 jobs from increased business.