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Michael Amaral, James Quirk, Ph.D.

Baltimore, The Panama Canal & The Revival

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When describing the sophomore season of the award winning show, The Wire, writer David Simon described season 2 – which centered on the Port of Baltimore – as a 12-epispode “wake for the death of work.” The City of Baltimore owes most of its prosperity in its long history to the success of its port, which actually precedes the establishment of the city itself.  However, in recent years, the port has seen a dramatic decline in cargo as well as a demand for manpower as brilliantly exhibited in The Wire.  Although he was often seen as a prophetic writer, Simon, as well as many others in the Baltimore-metropolitan area, is poised to experience a remarkable revival in the year 2014.   This is the year that the Panama Canal is scheduled to widen and deepen, allowing for twice as much cargo to arrive on the Atlantic coast faster and cheaper.  In the past few years, mayors and governors in cities and states up and down the Atlantic Coast have been scrambling to make their ports more attractive for shippers.  In order to do so, several obstacles have had to be met and as a result, some cities are better positioned to receive an increase in cargo than others – this includes Baltimore. Baltimore, however, is not exempt from the challenges that come with trade in the 21st century.  Like all cities on the East Coast, outdated local infrastructure is tested every minute as it tries to accommodate a swelling global economy and Baltimore’s local challenges center around a 116 year-old tunnel.

The question is not will the 2014 expansion effect the Port of Baltimore, but how will Baltimore prepare to reap the maximum benefits and what challenges and accompanying solutions are apparent. The methodology was conducting personal interviews and careful analysis of documentation and statistics from national and local organizations, specifically the Baltimore-Washington Intermodal Facility Project, the Greater Baltimore Committee as well as the Maryland Department of Transportation. Although this presentation is mostly informative, it will highlight key advantages that Baltimore has over other East Coast Ports and posits that the Port of Baltimore has the potential to become the most attractive Atlantic port in the next decade.

The poster presentation includes a brief delineation of the effects of the Panama Canal expansion of 2014 as well the key characteristics and responses of major East Coast Ports.  Various maps, charts and photos help the audience get a visual and spatial sense of the causes and effects of the 2014 event.

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