Baltimore Port Closure Could Cost RoRo Carrier Wallenius Wilhelmsen $10M

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Wallenius Wilhelmsen, which calls itself a market leader in RoRo shipping and vehicle logistics, is highlighting the scope of the impact on its operations and the auto sector while vessel traffic remains suspended in Baltimore. The company warned investors that even a one-month disruption could have a financial impact of between $5 and $10 million on its income (EBITDA).

It has been highlighted that the Port of Baltimore for the past 13 years led all other U.S. ports in the volume of cars and light trucks processed. The Dundalk Marine Terminal has approximately 300 acres devoted to automobiles as well as another 160 acres at the Fairfield/Masonville Terminals and 250 acres at the privately owned facilities. All told the Port of Baltimore devotes a total of 710 acres to RoRo operations.

Auto operations were on a rebound at the Port of Baltimore after the pandemic with a total of 847,158 cars and light trucks moving through the port in 2023. Volumes were up nearly 13 percent, but however were still lagging the peak of 857,890 vehicles in 2019.

“Baltimore is a key hub for Wallenius Wilhelmsen, and the terminal handles a significant volume of imports and exports of cars and heavy equipment,” advises the company. They have a second U.S. East Coast terminal in Brunswick, Georgia, and are reporting that they are re-routing to other U.S. ports also including Newport News, Virginia, and Newark, New Jersey.

The company had its best year on record it reported in 2023 with an EBITDA of $1.8 billion, so overall the financial impact from the closure in Baltimore is a small percentage of earnings. It however is having repercussions while the company is working to minimize the effect.

Wallenius Wilhelmsen was one of the few commercial companies that had a large vessel trapped in the port. The company reports its car carrier Carmen (30,000 dwt) had completed cargo operations but had not yet departed when the bridge collapsed. The vessel which was built in 2011 and has a capacity of 7,934 units is one of the largest in the company’s fleet of around 125 vessels. The Carmen is ready to sail as soon as the channel is reopened the company report. 

“We currently expect the closure to last for weeks, and have based our impact estimates on that assumption,” they write. “Once open, we anticipate the terminal will also promptly resume normal cargo operations.”

Officials have not publicly set a target date for when a channel might be available for large vessels. In the last two days, they have opened two, smaller channels with limited drafts while saying the focus is on reopening the federal channel. Carnival Cruise Line over the weekend advised passengers on one of its cruise ships that it was hearing that the channel would be available for the April 21 arrival of the Carnival Pride (88,500 gross tons). If not, the company plans to bus passengers from Norfolk, Virginia to the Baltimore-Washington area airports.

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