In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
Maritime Expansion – Managing Heightened Risks and Liabilities
By: Andrew Glick
The maritime industry in Maryland is crucial and ever-expanding. Maryland’s Port of Baltimore is one of the largest economic engines in the state and center of international commerce for the region. The Port is closer to the Midwest than any other East Coast port and is within an overnight drive of one-third of the nation’s population. The Port has constantly grown since its inception and has remained competitive due to the Maryland Port Administration improving and modernizing its facilities and by promoting it worldwide.
With the 2016 expansion of the Panama Canal, creating deeper and wider lanes for larger ships to pass through, the Port of Baltimore can receive large cargo-carriers previously limited to Pacific Coast ports. Further, the Port’s 50-foot shipping canal and two 50-foot container berths allow it to accommodate supersized container ships. In 2022, the Port was added to an international container service with the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the world’s largest container shipping company. Today, three of the world’s largest container shipping companies operate at the Port: Evergreen, Maersk, and MSC.
As a result, in 2022, the Port of Baltimore handled a record $74.3 billion worth of foreign cargo despite persisting worldwide supply chain delays and pandemic related impacts to the shipping industry. The Port’s terminals handled 43.3 million tons of international cargo and served over 50 ocean carriers making nearly 1,800 annual visits. The Port ranked first in the nation in handling automobiles, light trucks, farm and construction machinery, as well as imported gypsum. Additionally, the Port ranked second in the country for exporting coal and sixth for importing coffee.
The Port of Baltimore continued to have a very strong 2023. From January through September at the Port’s state-owned terminals, roll on/roll off farm and construction machinery recorded a 28% increase compared to 2022, container volumes rose 7%, and overall general cargo was up 5%. In September, the Port welcomed its third major international cruising partner, Norwegian Cruise Line, joining Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. In November, the United States Department of Transportation awarded $653 million in grants to upgrade and improve water-based ports across the United States, including $47 million for the Port of Baltimore. In December, Sparrows Point Alliance announced the proposed completion of the Sparrows Point Container Terminal project, a joint venture between Tradepoint Atlantic and Terminal Investment Limited, a MSC affiliated company. This 330-acre project will expand the Port’s capabilities, delivering more than $1 billion in new investment and increasing container operations by more than 50%.
With the immense scale of operations increasing at the Port of Baltimore, there are heightened risks and liabilities for maritime industry players that need to be managed effectively in 2024. The risk of accidents such as collisions, contacts, personal injury, fires, and death, as well as cargo transportation issues, pollution, commercial disputes, insurance matters and associated liabilities are inevitable. Key considerations include staying up to date and understanding the legal implications of changes in maritime law, evaluating the impact of new regulations, complying with growing international standards, and adopting best practices. Maritime laws vary across jurisdictions, and prioritizing compliance is essential to avoid legal consequences, disruptions to operations, mitigate risks and reduce potential damages, while ensuring your company is a leader in the maritime industry.
The heavily regulated maritime industry brings about complicated matters requiring attorneys who fully understand the industry. Wright, Constable & Skeen and its predecessors have been a staple within the Baltimore and regional maritime community for more than 100 years. Our attorneys can help you navigate the complexities of maritime liability and regulations to create safer, more sustainable operations in the ever-evolving shipping industry. If you are a shipping company or business owner concerned about your obligations with respect to the wide-ranging regulations impacting the maritime industry, please email me at email@example.com, or see our Maritime & Transportation Group.