Ocean carrier ZIM is expanding its e-commerce service to the Port of Baltimore, increasing both the frequency of calls and size of ships heading to the facility.
Changes to ZIM’s (NYSE: ZIM) service will occur in stages. Its e-commerce Baltimore Express service will call at the port from biweekly to weekly starting at the end of February. ZIM also will eventually increase the size of the service’s ships that come to the port from 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit container vessels to 8,000 TEU container ships.
ZIM began offering the Baltimore Express service last spring, according to a Thursday news release. The service utilizes the Panama and Suez canals, and its route treks as follows: Jakarta, Indonesia; Laem Chabang, Thailand; Cai Mep, Vietnam; Yantian, China; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; the Panama Canal; Kingston, Jamaica; and Baltimore.
From Baltimore, the line goes to Norfolk, Virginia, New York City, Boston, the Suez Canal and Kaohsiung. ZIM says the call at Kingston will enhance access to goods from Africa.
The service expansion will enable Maryland businesses and the port to capture more mid-Atlantic market share, officials said.
“Maryland’s strategic location and proximity to more than one-third of the U.S. population within an overnight drive has helped spur significant growth in e-commerce around our state,” acting Maryland Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson said in a news release. “We are thrilled to see that ZIM is choosing to expand its service, particularly at a time when the demand for goods is rapidly increasing both here and across our nation.”
The increase in service comes as the port complex is receiving millions of dollars in public and private funding. Last year, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded the Port of Baltimore $15.6 million to improve intermodal rail yard infrastructure. Ports America Chesapeake, the Maryland Port Administration’s public-private partner at Baltimore’s Seagirt Terminal, said it would match $6.7 million of the FRA grant.
“This is great news for the Port of Baltimore,” said MPA and Port of Baltimore Executive Director William Doyle. “ZIM has excelled in utilizing our existing rail network to bring cargo into the Midwest. With our ultralarge, Neo-Panamax cranes and our incredible network of regional distribution, fulfillment and sorting centers, the future has never been brighter for the container business in Baltimore.”
CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and state and city partners are also working to renovate the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore to allow double-stacked intermodal trains to pass through. Maryland officials estimate the tunnel expansion will increase the Port of Baltimore’s business by about 160,000 containers annually.
Baltimore ranks first among U.S. ports for volumes of autos and light trucks, roll-on/roll-off heavy farm and construction machinery and imported gypsum, according to Maryland officials. The port is also ninth in total foreign cargo value and 11th among major U.S. facilities for foreign cargo handled, according to a news release from Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s office.
Baltimore also served as a site for “ad hoc” ship calls, handling nearly 100 during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery period, Maryland officials said. Ad hoc vessels are those diverted to Baltimore that were not part of a regularly scheduled service call.
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