With the passage of time since the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, we come to fully appreciate the vulnerability of our supply chain and how vital the Port of Baltimore is to maintaining it. As the community scrambles to clean up the wreckage, divert cargo and keep transport as normal as possible, it’s important for corporate citizens and state leaders to step up to the challenge.

The port is still largely inaccessible to ships, meaning all port supply chain activity is disrupted. A couple months will be needed to clear the way for normal traffic, according to projections. Without another solution, a supply chain jam will be felt across dozens of vital industries and even beyond our nation’s borders.

Local companies and public officials have been stepping up to ensure the nation’s supply chain is impacted as minimally as possible and that Maryland’s local economy doesn’t suffer.

This is necessary because the Port of Baltimore is vital to the local and state economy. According to the Maryland Port Administration, the port generates approximately 37,300 jobs — directly, indirectly and through the activities of its employees. The port is a major source of revenue in the state, responsible for $3.3 billion in personal income and nearly $400 million in state, county and municipal tax revenues. Given this, it’s easy to see why the state is concerned about getting the port accessible and running as soon as possible.

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The forced reliance on ground vehicles has created an influx in traffic as trucking companies work around the port closure. Local companies such as White Marsh Transport Inc. have been heavily affected but are still working to keep things moving, despite the increased driving time and loss of products to unload and deliver. They are working with CSX and Tradepoint Atlantic, which have offered to move some of these cargo goods by rail — an efficient choice over cluttering roadways and increased truck emissions.

CSX, supplier of rail-based freight transportation with operations at Curtis Bay Coal Piers near the bridge, will continue to operate that coal pier facility as normal, and has been public about efforts to work on contingency plans with international coal customers, company executives said. They said CSX completed its first diverted cargo shipment on the new route between Baltimore and New York City — an important step to keep the supply chain flowing. Joe Hinrichs, the company’s CEO, recently appeared on CNBC’s “Mad Money” stating it will be “leveraging strategic partnerships with steamship lines,” to “ensure continuity for affected shipments.”

Without companies such as CSX stepping up, the recovery efforts would be much more difficult.

The continued transportation of coal and other goods is vital to the state’s economy and beyond. The Port of Baltimore is the second-largest exporting hub for coal in the United States, accounting for 28% of total coal exports in 2023. The port primarily exports coal to India, countries in Africa and other countries, including Ukraine. But even locally, Curtis Bay Piers supplies coal to power the Maryland electric grid and provides metallurgical coal critical for the steel industry.

Considering the unspecified closure and timeline, without CSX’s creative solutions to work around the port’s closure, the state’s electric grid could be disrupted, and the steel industry and others around the world would be rattled over time.

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On the public side, state officials have been quick to help local workers that have been affected. Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved $1 million in wage supports for workers affected by the bridge collapse. Similarly, a Maryland Senate committee advanced legislation to pay Port of Baltimore workers until the docks reopen. Reopening the port as quickly as possible and helping workers in the meantime is essential for Maryland’s economy.

It’s also in the best interest of the state, nation and world. This means everyone should be working toward the same goal: ensuring the Port of Baltimore reopens to keep local jobs and the local economy thriving.

The port is essential to state and national commerce, and productive partnerships between the public and business sectors will bring it back stronger and better than ever.

Christopher B. Summers is president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Public Policy Institute.

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