Two weeks after the Dali struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing its collapse and the death of six people working on the bridge at the time, there has been no significant port congestion on the US East Coast according to freight platform Freightos. 

Recovery efforts have taken another step this week, with some containers being lifted off the stricken vessel, and three temporary shallow channels for barges are now active and giving limited port access. 

As expected, traffic destined for Baltimore has been diverted to other East Coast ports, with Norfolk, VA and New York/New Jersey taking the majority of diverted cargo. 

Railroads have extended operations between these ports and Baltimore to assist shipping companies and their customers to move containers to their destinations.

Crucially, there has been no major congestion at the ports taking the diverted ships, and according to Freightos’ chief analyst Judah Levine, this is reflected in the decreasing ocean freight rates to the US East Coast. 

“East Coast ocean freight rates have decreased since the port closure in Baltimore… suggesting that regional container traffic has continued to flow,” he explained.

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This could be due to the time of year, as Levine pointed out that container freight is currently in its “slow season” after the busy Chinese New Year period. The ocean freight sector is also stabilising after many companies re-routed away from the Red Sea due to Houthi attacks, which had a calming impact on Asia-North America rates. They are now 30% lower than the February peak. 

What’s next? 

As the recovery of the Dali and removal of the ruined Key Bridge is continuing, the US Army Corp of Engineers said a new 35ft (10.6 metres) deep channel will be dredged and opened by the end of April. The Corp has estimated that full access to Baltimore’s ports could come as early as May. 

This channel will allow some Ro-Ro vessels to access the key automotive ports in the area, as well as further barges with limited container capacity to enter the port area. 

It is expected these barges will act as a shuttle service for containers that were diverted to Norfolk, Virginia.