A truck passes under the Casco Bay Bridge on Commercial Street on Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore is going to have a ripple effect up and down the East Coast for several months as ship traffic gets diverted and cargo is snarled, officials say.

Maine, at the end of the Eastern Seaboard’s supply chain, could feel those impacts – though not immediately or profoundly.

“If you’ve ever seen a long line of people walking in a parade, if the front stops, it causes this huge mess behind it. We are at the very end of where that parade is going,” said Patti Miles, a Maine Business School dean and professor who specializes in supply chain management.

“We’ll have weird little effects,” she said. “But it’s not going to be today – it’s going to be a month and a half from now when no one is even thinking about this port anymore, because of the lag of the impact.”

The Port of Baltimore is America’s largest handler of automobiles, light trucks, farm and construction machinery, sugar and gypsum – a mineral used in fertilizer and construction materials, according to the State of Maryland.

It is also one of the largest exporters of U.S.-produced coal.


Though Portland imports the most coal in the Northeast – still less than 1% of coal imports across the country – Maine hasn’t received a delivery of U.S. coal since 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Maryland Bridge Collapse

The cargo ship Dali is stuck under part of the remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after the ship hit the bridge Tuesday in Baltimore. Maryland National Guard via AP

Portland, which is the second-biggest seaport in New England, is also Maine’s only container port.

“Even when everything’s working perfectly, we’re still at the end,” Miles said. “All the stuff gets delivered on its way up here, and then we get what’s left. So if there’s less stuff, then less is going to come to us because we’re at the end.”

That doesn’t mean movement of these products will halt altogether. Manufacturers and shippers are working to detour their routes around Baltimore.

But the cost of goods likely will rise, and there could be delays in filling stock.

“It does give the companies a reason to say, ‘Oh, we need to charge more for our sugar because this happened,'” Miles said. “They have this legitimate excuse to up their prices. And we can’t stop them from doing that.”



All eyes are on the automakers. Baltimore handled 847,158 automobiles and light trucks in 2023, according to the Port of Baltimore.

General Motors said on Wednesday that it was rerouting shipments, while Mercedes is evaluating its options.

Tom Brown, president of the Maine Automobile Dealers Association, said auto dealers and consumers here are less concerned as makers inform them they are rerouting shipments.

Used cars for sale at Lee Auto Mall in August. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer file

“We’re obviously going to have at least a short-term impact on people being able to get products that would have gone through Baltimore,” Brown said.

He hasn’t heard much more, though, with the situation still developing.


“How fast they can reroute and what they have to do once they land it, who knows?” Brown said.

And it’s not clear whether vehicles normally come to Portland directly from Baltimore. The second-largest port in the country for car carriers is about 700 miles south of Baltimore in Brunswick, Georgia, Bloomberg reported.

Any delays for Mainers would build on a trend that has been growing since the start of the pandemic: Fewer new cars are on dealer lots and used vehicles are getting more expensive.


Sprague Energy, an energy and materials wholesaler with two terminals in Portland Harbor, gets its oil products through the Colonial Pipeline and from barges in New York and Canada.

“(The collapse) hasn’t impacted supplies at all,” said Jim Therriault, vice president of materials handling for the company. “I don’t see any real direct impact. And we’ve looked at it to try to figure out if there was something that would be moving that needed to find a place.”


Sappi, which runs paper mills in Westbrook and Skowhegan and is headquartered in South Africa, said it is redirecting some of its international shipments.

“Some products from Europe come to Baltimore. We use other ports on the East Coast, and we will be using those ports for any Sappi products coming from Europe into the country until the Port of Baltimore is accessible again for such imports,” spokesperson Peter Steele said.

“Operationally, we do not expect any long-term adverse effects at our facilities in Maine, our North American mills or our global facilities as a result of the bridge collapse. We do not route our raw materials for the mills, nor do we export any product, via Baltimore,” he added.

Workers fills oil trucks at the Sprague terminal in South Portland in 2022. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer, file

Steele declined to comment about whether Sappi has concerns or contingency plans in place for potential delays or operational issues caused by rerouted traffic clogging other harbors.

But all points of the supply chain are interconnected. What’s going through Baltimore could also be destined for a train that meets a truck that drives to Maine. Or rerouted ships could create pileups in other harbors getting more traffic than usual.

“The supply chain works like our brain. If you get a brain injury, what happens is your brain reroutes the information to other places automatically,” said Miles, the professor. “Similar with the supply chain, it will all get to where it’s going. But it’s going to be held up for a while. It’s going to take some time.”

The rerouting process is complicated by the fact that north of Baltimore, there are not many deep-water harbors on the East Coast that can welcome larger ships, she said.

Portland is one, though it doesn’t have vessels the size of the cargo ship that took down the Key Bridge moving through its harbor.

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