Automakers Are Rerouting Car Shipments Away From Baltimore

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Several large automakers said on Tuesday that they were working to reroute shipments of cars because of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

The Port of Baltimore plays an important role in the shipment of vehicles and handled more than 750,000 cars and trucks in 2023, according to the Maryland Port Administration. It ranks first in the United States for the volume of automobiles and light trucks it handles and for vessels that carry wheeled cargo, including farm and construction machinery, according to a statement by Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland last month.

Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary, said that the rerouting would affect the national supply chain. “The path to normalcy will not be easy,” he said. “It will not be quick, and it will not be inexpensive.”

Among the automakers that use the port are General Motors, Ford Motor, Stellantis, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Some automakers said they were planning to divert imports and exports of vehicles to other East Coast ports while they assessed how the collapse would affect their logistics.

“We are initiating discussions with our various transportation providers on contingency plans to ensure an uninterrupted flow of vehicles to our customers and will continue to carefully monitor this situation,” Stellantis, which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, said in a statement.

G.M. said it expected the disaster to have “minimal impact” on its operations. It, too, is looking to reroute vehicles to other ports. Toyota Motor said it did not expect a “significant disruption,” but some of its exports could be affected. Volkswagen said it did not expect to be affected by the collapse because its receiving facility in the Port of Baltimore is on the eastern side of the bridge, which is still accessible to ships.

Baltimore is important for auto imports in part because it is closer to the Midwest than other East Coast ports. It is also equipped to handle specialized vessels, known as roll on, roll off ships, that are widely used to transport vehicles overseas. Such ships allow vehicles to be driven on board through one end of the vessel at their port of departure and off the ship on the other end at their destination port.

One port automakers might seek to divert cars to is the Port of Brunswick in Georgia. That port already handles roll on, roll off ships and is in the middle of a major expansion project. Georgia officials have predicted Brunswick would surpass Baltimore in vehicle shipping as soon as 2026.

The port in Charleston, S.C., also handles many imported and exported automobiles.

“We are in close contact with our logistics service providers and are continuously monitoring the situation,” Mercedes-Benz said in a statement. “We have several options available within our flexible supply chain network.”

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