A view of Baltimore, Maryland, from the water, November 2009. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, October 2008. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
World Trade Center (a pentagonal building), 401 East Pratt St., Baltimore, Maryland, February 2008. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In 2016, some 10.1 million tons of cargo were handled by the Port of Baltimore, a 5% increase from the 9.62 million tons in 2015 and a new record for most tonnage handled by public terminals in a single year.
1906 Steam Tugboat BALTIMORE, moored in Baltimore Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, September 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
For total overall dollar value of cargo, Baltimore is ranked 9th, and for cargo tonnage for all U.S. ports, 13th. In 2016, total international cargo moving through the Port totalled 31.8 million tons, down from 32.4 million tons in 2015. The value of cargo traveling through the Port in 2016 came to $49.9 billion, down from $51.1 billion in 2015.
Salt pile, Rukert Terminals, 2021 South Clinton St., Baltimore, Maryland, August 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Chief Imports: automobiles and light trucks, farm and construction machinery, petroleum products, gypsum, sugar, alumina, salt, crude mineral substances, fertilizer and fertilizer materials, and ferroalloys. Baltimore also continues to grow as a major distributor of imported wood pulp and paper.
Tugboats, Fell's Point, Baltimore, Maryland, January 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In Maryland's economy, the Port of Baltimore plays a vital role generating nearly $3 billion in annual wages and salary, as well as supporting 13,650 direct jobs and 127,000 jobs connected to Port work. The Port also generates more than $310 million in taxes. It serves over 50 ocean carriers making nearly 1,800 annual visits.
Terminals. Handling Port traffic are five public and twelve private terminals, as well as seven post-Panamax cranes and four super-post-Panamax cranes. Public terminals include Dundalk, Fairfield, North Locust Point, Seagirt, and South Locust Point. Opened in 1990, the Seagirt Marine Terminal provides a 275-acre center for automated cargo-handling.
In January 2017, the Port's public terminals handled a record-setting 923,030 tons of cargo, a 14% increase from January 2016. This includes 712,386 container tons, which is a new month record and an increase of 20% from January 2016.
Seven post-Panamax & four super-post-Panamax cranes, Seagirt Marine Terminal, Port of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
In January 2017, the Port of Baltimore handled a record-setting 37,694 loaded containers.
Shipping containers, Port of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, July 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship, Cruise Maryland Terminal, Baltimore, Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship, heading to sea, Patapsco River, Baltimore, Maryland, October 2017. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
The Port first drew attention for its ships in 1670 and was designated a port of entry by the General Assembly in 1706. Fells Point, the deepest part of the harbor, was home to numerous shipbuilders, and later would gain renown for its Baltimore clippers, as well as the Continental Navy. Its natural depth made Fells Point a center for trade and shipping, and, in 1773, it was incorporated into Baltimore City.
As Baltimore grew into a city during the Revolutionary War, the Port of Baltimore became a center for the trade with the West Indies that supported the war effort. To protect the Port, an earthwork fort, known as Fort Whetstone, was erected in 1776 on Whetstone Point, the narrow peninsula between branches of the Patapsco River. Wardens of the Port were authorized in 1783 to oversee construction of wharves, clear waterways, and collect duties from vessels entering and clearing the Port (Chapter 24, Acts of 1783).
Trade with China commenced in 1785 as John O'Donnell brought in goods to that part of the City called Canton, just east of Fells Point.
In 1793, as England warred with France, Maryland relinquished control of Fort Whetstone to the federal government. To protect coastal shipping and cities, the federal government began construction in 1794 of a series of Atlantic forts, among them Fort McHenry. To protect Baltimore's Port, Fort McHenry was constructed on the site of the Whetstone earthworks in 1794. Near the old fort, masonry stood in place of earthen walls, and more cannons were added, creating an upper and lower battery. The need for this more defensive structure was proven at the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812.
During the 19th century, Baltimore clipper ships sped from the Port around the world and developed a particularly lucrative trade with South America.
Although Baltimore was a port long before it was a city, the State delayed its role in port development until 1827. Then, the Governor began annually to appoint State wharfingers who took charge of State-owned or leased docks, particularly those adjacent to the State Tobacco Warehouse.
With the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad connecting to Port warehouses at Locust Point in 1845, Baltimore became the commercial gateway to an expanding nation. As supply and demand grew for imported goods to Baltimore, ship production and design increased.
Over time, the Port changed dramatically, most noticeably in its depth and width. In 1830 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers surveyed Baltimore Harbor, establishing the central lane depth at 17 feet. Though dredging had been conducted earlier, the federal River and Harbor Act of 1852 first authorized dredging to obtain specific dimensions. The Act authorized a channel, some 22 feet deep and 150 feet wide, from Fort McHenry to Swan Point. To decrease sediment accumulations and reduce the need for dredging, in 1869 Brewerton Channel was created. Also 22 feet in depth, this new channel was 200 feet in width. Over the years, new channels have been added, deepened, and widened. A 50-foot turning basin was dredged in the Fort McHenry Channel in 1999. Today, the main channel reaches 51 feet down and 700 feet across. Brewerton Channel was widened further in 2001. Currently, it is 50 feet deep and 700 feet wide. In 2012, the Seagirt Marine Terminal berth also was deepened to 50 feet. By mid-2015, the access channel to the Seagirt Terminal was widened to accomodate the world's largest container ships.
Though constantly growing since its inception, considerable time elapsed before the Port had a State agency to oversee operations. The Maryland Port Authority assumed that role in 1956 (Chapter 2, Acts of Special Session of 1956). The Authority's prime concern was to keep the Port competitive by improving and modernizing its facilities and by promoting it worldwide. In 1971, the Authority was replaced by the Maryland Port Administration under the Department of Transportation.
The Port of Baltimore continues to improve today. It adds jobs and revenue to Maryland's economic base, and has even begun ecological duties. In recent years, the Maryland Port Administration added a number of green projects to its workload, dredging and cleaning over 22 acres surrounding the Port, creating an environmental education center, and taking part in ecological programs, such as the Green Schools Program, and the Masonville Restoration Project. In 2015, new LED light fixtures, which are expected to save 80 percent in energy consumption each month, were installed on the bridge connecting the Dundalk and Seagirt Terminals.
On October 15, 2016, the Port of Baltimore was the location of the commissioning ceremony for the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), a guided missile destroyer in the U.S. Navy. The ceremony took place during Maryland's inaugural Fleet Week celebrations.
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), North Locust Point, Port of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, October 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
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