Bridge Collapse Snarls Consol Energy Coal Exports From Port Of Baltimore

Zinger Key Points
  • Coast Guard is blocking shipping traffic in area of Francis Scott Key Bridge wreckage.
  • The port of Baltimore is nation’s second-biggest hub for exporting coal.

U.S. coal miner and exporter Consol Energy Inc. CEIX said Tuesday that a major bridge collapse is delaying vessel access at its terminal at the Port of Baltimore.

Early Tuesday, a container ship the company said wasn't carrying Consol coal struck a support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which later collapsed. Search efforts for six people were ongoing Tuesday afternoon, according to media reports.

After the collapse, the Coast Guard established a "safety zone" within a 2,000-yard radius around the bridge wreckage, Consol said.

"As a result, vessel access in and out of the CONSOL Marine Terminal, which is located in the Port of Baltimore, has been delayed," the company said in a statement.

"We are working closely with the Coast Guard, transportation authorities and city officials to safely restore vessel access to and resume normal operations at our CONSOL Marine Terminal," the statement continued. "However, at this moment, we do not have a definitive timeline of when vessel access or normal operations will resume. We are looking at all available options to us to minimize or address direct and indirect impacts to the company and its operations."

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The Port of Baltimore is the nation's second-biggest coal exporting hub after Norfolk, Va., and handled about a fifth of U.S. coal exports in 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Last year, Consol's Baltimore marine terminal brought in nearly $70 million in net income from 19 million tons of coal that passed through the facility, according to company financial data. Consol derives 60% of its revenue from export sales. 

The company said the terminal is one of two export terminals on the Eastern Seaboard that can serve the biggest ocean-going vessels. It is the only one served by two rail lines, CSX Corp. CSX and Norfolk Southern Corp. NSC.

"The accident is a serious blow to the port operations of both CSX and Norfolk Southern, particularly for intermodal container, automotive and coal traffic," according to a report in Railway Age.

CSX said customers should expect delays, and Norfolk Southern said it was assessing the impact on its operations and would issue a customer advisory, the trade publication reported. 

Consol shares fell nearly 7% Tuesday, making it one of the market's notable losers on a day when the S&P 500 recorded a 0.3% decline.

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Photo: Tugs assisting tanker approaching Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge (I-695), Shutterstock

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