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More vessels anticipated in North Carolina’s two ports

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(The Center Square) – More vessels in Wilmington and Morehead City ports are likely and will be welcomed in the aftermath of the stunning collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

“Customers are now evaluating their supply chain options and NC Ports stands ready to assist and support the larger supply chain network as needed,” said Brian Clark in a statement. He’s executive director of North Carolina Ports.

Six workers on the Key Bridge died and two were rescued early Tuesday morning when the Dali, a cargo ship flying Singapore colors, lost power and steering resulting in a crash into a bridge support. Ninety seconds before, the crew onboard was able to get out a mayday call and authorities sealed both ends of the bridge from traffic.

There were no fatalities aboard the ship.

The bridge fell into the Patapsco River and is expected to be replaced. It carries I-695 traffic around the southeastern side of Baltimore, though only about 31,000 vehicles a day – mostly commercial, such as trucking. Costs and timeframe are unknown, with various guesses depending on the kind of bridge rebuilt, expedited permitting, and availability of construction companies as well as steel.

Vessel traffic is expected to resume far sooner than the bridge will be rebuilt. Norfolk, Va., and the Port of New York/New Jersey are already seeing increased activity.

“We will be closely monitoring as this unfolds and will apply the lessons learned appropriately in North Carolina to ensure that our citizens and businesses continue to have safe routes to travel,” Clark said. “In North Carolina, large cargo vessels do not navigate under bridges to access either of our ports.”

While specific businesses line the harbor in Baltimore, Wilmington does have useful offerings. Included are a 101,000-square-foot, on-terminal cold storage facility; three neo-Panamax cranes; and four post-Panamax container cranes.

Morehead City and Wilmington each have extensive warehousing and open storage areas. Morehead City is four miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The ports handle more than 4 million tons of general cargo a year.

Generally easy access is available to Interstates 40 (which begins in Wilmington going to California), 95, 85, 77 and 74, and U.S. 17 and U.S. 70. Class I rail service is accessible through CSX and Norfolk Southern.

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