The port of Baltimore has surpassed throughput at its automotive terminals for 2011, recording the loading and unloading of 403,679 vehicles through to November, a figure it says puts it ahead of every other US port for the first time. The value of those vehicles was $10.1 billion according to the port authority.
The figure beats 2010 throughput by more than 6,500 units and builds on a 44% increase in activity in 2010 when it moved up to second place in the top US port table behind New York and New Jersey with just over 397,000 units processed. The frontrunner, meanwhile, recorded a drop of 4% in 2010.
Baltimore benefits from being 200 miles further inland than competitor East Coast ports meaning reduced trucking time and costs into the US for carmakers using the port, which include Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The latter started using Baltimore for imports to its Mid-west customers in 2010 following a switch from the port of Charleston. This resulted in an additional 50,000 imported vehicles a year flowing through the port under a five-year contract.
Baltimore is also Mercedes-Benz's busiest US port, with 125,000 vehicles imported annually. In October 2011, the processing centre prepared 12,400 vehicles, a record month until November's 13,000 vehicles.
The port also receives Ford Transit Connect vans made at Kocaeli in Turkey, handling about 35,000 annually, GM compact cars from Mexico, as well as Maybach sedans and McLaren sports cars, amongst others.
Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru go through a facility owned by WWL Vehicle Services Americas, while Volvo, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Jaguar, Land Rover and Chrysler are processed by Amports.
Baltimore has also moved into the number one spot for truck handling and retained its position as the number one port in the US for handling ro-ro cargo, including farm and construction equipment. 
The combined space at the port’s auto handling terminals is equal to 250 hectares for vehicles and ro-ro cargoes.
Baltimore cannot afford to rest on its achievement, however. The first dedicated vehicle and ro-ro terminal in New York City will begin operations in 2012 at the site of a former container and cocoa terminal in Brooklyn, following a development programme that has lasted more than a decade.
The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal (SBMT), in the Sunset Park industrial area of Brooklyn, will offer processing and technical services for vehicle imports and exports. It will be the first time that carmakers and ro-ro lines will have a direct link to vehicle distribution on the east side of the Hudson river. Read more here.