WALLENIUS Wilhelmsen expects the closure of Baltimore, one of the USA’s leading automobile trade ports and a key company hub, to cost it up to US$10 million.

WW estimates it will be at least a month before its 7934 CEU PCTC Carmen will be able to resume its voyage to Australasia, given the complicated and challenging task of removing the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, demolished by containership Dali last Tuesday [26 March].

In a statement issued last night WW said the suspension of all vessel traffic into and out of the Port of Baltimore until further notice had obvious implications, both operational and financial for the company.

“However, through working with various port authorities, partners, and stakeholders to provide alternative solutions we are minimizing the effect this unforeseen situation is having upon our employees, customers and ongoing operations. We are appreciative of the Baltimore community, of which we have been a member for many decades, and the local efforts to resolve the situation.

“The terminals in Baltimore Port are open to road traffic and are fully operational, as are our processing centres despite vessel operations being suspended. Cargo on the water bound for Baltimore is currently being re-routed to other US ports such as Newport News, Newark, and Savannah.

“Our vessel Carmen is still at berth in the port awaiting clearance to sail once the channel reopens. Planned cargo operations were completed at the port prior to the bridge collapse and the vessel and crew are ready to sail as soon as the channel is reopened. There are no verified estimates for when the channel will reopen again. We currently expect the closure to last for weeks and have based our impact estimates on that assumption,” WW said.

“Once open, we anticipate the terminal will also promptly resume normal cargo operations as vessels begin to make port calls as previously scheduled. There is of course risk of delays to the anticipated reopening, or unforeseen challenges in the salvage operations.

“We have estimated that the aggregated provisional total financial impact on EBITDA of the situation is in the range of 5-10 USD million, assuming the disruptions last for up to a month.

“This considers both the reduction of logistics operations in Baltimore, Carmen being unable to exit the port and other disruptions to our shipping operation. The financial effects have been mitigated by significant efforts of Wallenius Wilhelmsen staff of rerouting cargo to and from other US terminals,” the company said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has opened a second temporary channel and is working on a third but all are restricted to small craft such as tugs and barges. Bad weather this week has limited diving and recovery work, with sonar images revealing the main span of the bridge has ‘pancaked’ and is buried in harbour mud.