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Delaware will feel effects of the closing of the Port of Baltimore

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

The closing of the Port of Baltimore after the Key Bridge collapse will have major effects on jobs, traffic, and the global and U.S. supply chain.

Work is underway to clear wreckage from Baltimore’s waterway, but there is no official timeline for when it will be complete.

University of Delaware Professor of Business Administration Bintong Chen expects it could take around 2 months to reopen the waterway.

Rebuilding the bridge is another story, considering the 47-year-old bridge originally took 5 years to build.

Until then, both water and road traffic will be diverted.

The Port of Wilmington confirmed Friday it is receiving an initial group of 8 diverted ships -- and more are likely on their way.

University of Delaware Professor of Business Administration Bintong Chen says the Port of Baltimore handles more vehicles than any other U.S. port.

“Given that the port is so big for the United States, and especially for the car shipments, they need a specific port for the roll-in and roll-out. Not every Port can ship cars, you need a specific set of facilities,” he explained.

Because the Port of Wilmington handles cars, Chen says it can expect more requests to take on car shipments normally headed to Baltimore.

And that will likely affect roads around the port.

“You’re going to see more traffic in the Wilmington area now because they’re going to divert a lot of waterway traffic to the Port of Wilmington,” said Chen. “So as a result you’re going to see more trucking activity through that Port.”

Delaware won’t see a lot of extra traffic elsewhere, but Chen says anyone traveling South can expect extended waiting time in front of the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and on the Bay Bridge.

The Port of Wilmington is only about 1/7th of the size of the Port of Baltimore. And while other Ports along the East Coast will also be helping to ease the disruptions in the supply chain, Americans will still feel the effects.

This is going to cause a lot of issues for the whole United States in terms of import-export of specific products, especially cars,” said Chen.

He says consumers can expect to see a car shortage within the next month.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.