Additional cargo shipments are headed to North Carolina’s coast this month amid the ongoing Baltimore Port closure, North Carolina Ports has disclosed. 

North Carolina Ports says it is working with an existing port customer who plans to utilize the Port of Wilmington as a contingent port until the situation improves in Baltimore. The customer calls both the Port of Wilmington and the Port of Baltimore, but the imports and exports bound for Baltimore will now temporarily be rerouted through the Port of Wilmington. 

“We anticipate the first vessel servicing this diverted cargo to arrive in the middle of the month,” revealed Brian Clark, Executive Director of North Carolina Ports. “Ports along the East Coast and the industry as a whole are mobilizing and assisting however they can to ensure minimal supply chain disruptions in the wake of this tragedy.”

The Port of Baltimore came to an unexpected halt over one week ago when an outgoing ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing the bridge to collapse. Creating over 15,000 jobs and handling 1.1 million 20-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) containers in 2023, the port manages many imports and exports that must find alternative routes while the port remains closed.

North Carolina Ports manages two deep-water ports in Morehead and Wilmington and one inland port in Charlotte. As North Carolina’s busiest port, the Port of Wilmington spans 284 acres and handles over 320,000 TEU annually, a fraction of the traffic through Baltimore. With access to major highways and interstates along with access to Class I rail networks through CSX and Norfolk Southern, the NC Ports is confident they can fill the temporary hole, asserting that they stand “ready to assist and support the larger supply chain network as needed.”

Aerial view of the Port of Wilmington. The port’s facilities are 26 miles from the open sea on the Cape Fear River. (source: NC Ports)

Following the incident, Clark addressed growing safety concerns as it relates to cargo ship navigation. He said commercial vessels do not need to navigate under bridges to access either of the deep water ports in North Carolina. The NC Department of Transportation echoed this statement, explaining that “large cargo vessels do not navigate under bridges to access either of our ports.”

“There is still much to be learned from the tragic situation Maryland is sorting through. We will be closely monitoring as this unfolds and will apply the lessons learned appropriately in North Carolina to ensure that our citizens and businesses continue to have safe routes to travel,” the Transportation Department said. 

Meanwhile, the Cold Summit Development project adjacent to the Port of Wilmington is underway and projected to be completed in September of this year. The initiative is poised to expand capabilities at North Carolina’s busiest port, enabling more commerce in frozen goods and promising positive ripple effects for economic development.