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Port of Baltimore Closure Causes Ripple Effect for Coal Producers



April 1, 2024 - The closure of the Port of Baltimore has a big impact on coal producers in northern West Virginia.

Last year, Baltimore shipped 28 million tons of coal, with about half of it coming from West Virginia. The collapse of the Francis Scott Key highway bridge last week has cut off the coal piers at Baltimore Harbor.

As a result, the coal companies will have to find other ports, mainly Norfolk or the Gulf Coast. John Saldanha, a professor at West Virginia University, noted that Baltimore is the second largest U.S. export port for coal behind Norfolk, accounting for about a fifth of U.S. coal exports. However, shipping coal through alternative ports will raise costs, even if those ports have the capacity to absorb the shipments.

The disruption may lead producers to consider other ports, especially with the recent turmoil in the Middle East causing vessels to divert around the Cape of Good Hope, giving Gulf Coast ports an advantage. Despite this, Asian customers still prefer northern Appalachian coal due to its quality.

Officials have stated that reopening the Port of Baltimore is their top priority. However, it may take weeks, if not months, for the port to reopen.