Port of Baltimore Readies for More Freight From ZIM

Port of Baltimore
Activity at the Port of Baltimore. (Port of Baltimore via Facebook)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Trucking efficiency improvements are underway at the Port of Baltimore as ZIM Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. prepares to soon double its e-commerce service there with larger container vessels.

Beginning at the end of February, Israel-based ZIM will increase the frequency of its E-commerce Baltimore Express to weekly service from bi-weekly.

“Importantly, this expanded ZIM service loads cargo in Asia and heads through the Panama Canal and calling on the Port of Kingston, Jamaica. In Jamaica, ZIM’s vessels have access to local cargo and trans-shipment goods from South America and Africa. After Jamaica, vessels head straight to the Port of Baltimore,” said William Doyle, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. “It helps to open trade lane opportunities for more Caribbean, South America and Africa produced goods destined for the United States.”

Calling this development great news for truckers and Class I rail providers, Doyle told Transport Topics that ZIM vessels will leave the U.S. to backhaul cargo to Asia using the Suez Canal.

William Doyle


“Our truckers are the greatest in the world. We are a predominately truck-served port, and that’s why we are heavily invested in developing greater efficiencies that will get our truckers in and out of the Port of Baltimore quicker and easier than ever,” he adding, also noting the port’s good ongoing working relationship with Maryland Motor Truck Association.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced Feb. 9 that ZIM’s expanded service will increase the size of its ships coming into the port by nearly 50%, starting first with 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) container vessels before shifting to larger 8,000 TEU containerships. Last March, ZIM, which operates a fleet of about 100 vessels, launched its Baltimore e-commerce service from China and Southeast Asia to the East Coast. It touted features such as a dedicated out-of-gate lane and expedited road/rail/air connections to inland destinations, especially the Midwest.

In anticipation of more freight, the Ports America Chesapeake (PAC) at the port has placed into operation four extra supersized, Neo-Panamax container cranes. “PAC is making significant investments into the Seagirt Marine Terminal that are already improving overall efficiencies for truckers, such as 15 additional rubber-tired gantry cranes, an additional truck gate and weigh-in-motion scales,” Doyle said.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing above or go here for more info

Kevin Anderson, acting Maryland Commerce Secretary, expressed his enthusiasm for ZIM’s expansion, “particularly at a time when the demand for goods is rapidly increasing both here and across our nation.”

Founded in 1945, ZIM operates in more than 100 countries serving 25,000 customers in 300 global ports. Hani Kalinski, ZIM executive vice president of its Pacific business unit, said the service expansion will enable the company to provide streamlined premium services to customers and quickly respond to changing market needs.

The upgraded weekly service rotation is Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, the Panama Canal, and Jamaica before arrival in Baltimore.

Although the final tally on the Port of Baltimore’s performance last year is still being analyzed, Doyle expects 2022 to be a record year for overall general cargo tonnage from its public marine terminals.

“Our containers finished up very strong, up 27% in October, 24% in November year-over-year, and up 5% year to date. Our roll on/roll off high and heavy farm and construction machinery had a fantastic 2022 and was up 23% year over year through November,” he said. “Baltimore handles more Ro/Ro cargo than any other U.S. port, as we do with cars and light trucks. That industry has been really impacted by the international microchip crisis, but we’ve seen some positive signs in the last few months. We’re expecting when all is said and done to again have the top market share in the nation for cars.”

In another expansion project, the Port of Baltimore’s rising container business is likely to go higher with an ongoing renovation of the CSX-owned Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, slated for completion in 2025. The project involves improving clearance in the 127-year-old tunnel and at 21 other areas between Baltimore and Philadelphia.