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New container terminal in Baltimore adds to growing logistics hub at old Bethlehem Steel location

The repurposing of old industrial facilities continues as a storied part of Baltimore continues its quest to become a major East Coast logistics hub.

A huge 165-acre terminal and logistics hub with an on-dock rail facility is being built at the former site of the Bethlehem Steel plant in Sparrows Point. It’s expected to ease capacity issues for Conrail and also boost growth at the Port of Baltimore, the nation’s 12th-largest maritime facility.

“This is one of the most important and consequential announcements we have made since setting out with our initial plans to redevelop the former Sparrows Point steel mill,” Kerry Doyle, management director of Tradepoint Atlantic (TPA), said in a statement.

Tradepoint Atlantic is joining developer Terminal Investment Ltd. (TIL) to create the huge East Coast hub. The latest expansion is expected to employ about 1,000 people. Terms of the project were not disclosed, but is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Terminal Investment Ltd. is owned by Mediterranean Shipping Co., one of the largest operators of container ships. It is the Port of Baltimore’s largest shipping line. It was founded in 2000 to secure container handling capacity in major ports around the world.

This expansion of the 3,300-acre Sparrows Point site is the latest phase of redevelopment by Tradepoint Atlantic. It already has attracted more than 20 companies, including some of the biggest names in logistics. They include Amazon, FedEx, Under Armour, BMW and Volkswagen, among others.

The new container terminals would be the second built in the U.S. in the past decade. The other opened last year in Charleston, S.C., home to the nation’s seventh-largest port.

U.S. ports have been in need of expansion since the turn of the century. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic boom exacerbated some crowded conditions at U.S. ports. The expansion in Baltimore is designed to ease such concerns.

This strategic partnership builds on a recently announced $466 million expansion of the 126-year-old Howard Street Tunnel underneath Baltimore. This expansion is expected to be a boost for rail and intermodal traffic because it will finally allow double-stacking of containers through the Port of Baltimore, will move an estimated 160,000 more containers a year when the project is completed in late 2023.

Maryland’s outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan called the Howard Street tunnel expansion “an absolute game-changer” for the Port of Baltimore. This terminal expansion adds to that allure, Hogan said.

“Tradepoint Atlantic has quickly become a transformational force as one of North America’s most strategic and versatile commercial gateways and a magnet for major companies,” Hogan said in a statement.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the partnership between Tradepoint Atlantic and Terminal Investment Ltd. is “yet another example of what can happen when entities come together to invest in Baltimore.”

Maryland Port Administrator William Doyle called the expansion “tremendous news” and added that it further strengthens Baltimore as one of the nation’s top ports.

The Port of Baltimore’s primary existing container terminal is Seagirt, which is operated by Ports America. It currently has capacity for about 800,000 20-foot containers. It can expand to about 1.2 million 20-foot TEUs.

With the new proposed terminal, the Port of Baltimore could have capacity for 2.5 million 20-foot TEUs.

“What will be unique about this facility is you can start from scratch and you can build it exactly how you want it,” Darr told the Baltimore Sun. “It’s really going to be state of the art.”

Since the first redevelopment project at Sparrows Point began eight years ago, Tradepoint Atlantic has remained committed to environmental stewardship. As part of the plan to build the container terminal, TPA and TIL will also establish a dredge containment facility to support the terminal’s development that will become part of the area’s entire environmental remediation strategy.

About the Author

John D. Schulz

John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. John is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis.

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