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Industry & Trends

Baltimore Bridge Collapse Could Impact Plywood and Veneer Shipments

While many consumer and industrial products are being affected by the tragedy, key wood products could be impacted the most.

The late-March collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore harbor after it was struck by a giant container ship is only the latest in a series of supply chain issues including Panama Canal restrictions due to low water levels, terrorist attacks in the Red Sea and Asian politics but experts say the Baltimore event may have a disproportionate impact on plywood and veneer imports.

While the port of Baltimore is not one of the largest in the country, only ranking 17th in volume, it is a leading gateway for a number of specific products. In 2023, it ranked first in the U.S. for handling automobiles, light trucks, farm and construction equipment, as well as imported sugar and gypsum, according to a government agency, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It said materials associated with the building and furniture manufacturing sectors that move through the port in significant numbers include plywood/veneer/particleboard as well as paper/paperboard and gypsum.

In January of this year, government statistics showed the port moved more than 62,000 container tons of forest products, the largest amount moved since August 2023.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, wrote, “This is a major disaster and will create significant problems on the U.S. East Coast for U.S. importers and exporters. The bridge collapse will mean that for the time being it will not be possible to get to the container terminals – or a range of the other port terminals – in Baltimore.“

The port is expected to be closed to containers indefinitely, with all vessel traffic into and out of the port suspended until further notice as clean-up measures are underway.

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