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Implications For Automakers After Baltimore Bridge Collapse

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Implications For Automakers After Baltimore Bridge Collapse

A Singapore-flagged container vessel, Dali took down most of Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. A route diversion (to other East Coast ports) may spell more challenges for automakers.

As the country scrambles to execute search and rescue, automakers might need to brace themselves for more impact coming from disruptions of suspended port operations till further notice. According to, Japan imported ¥269.94 billion (US$1.78 billion) of auto parts from ASEAN last year for its domestic assembly. These automakers often source various components such as engines, transmissions, electrical parts, and body parts from Southeast Asian countries. 

In 2022, the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC) noted Japan imported US$7.93 billion worth of motor vehicles parts and accessories from China (US$3.38 billion), Thailand (US$831 million), Germany (US$501 million), South Korea (US$447 million) and the United States (US$423 million).

Apart from auto parts, ASEAN enjoys a trade surplus of more than US$250 billion – the majority of which are due to exports of electrical machinery. The bloc exported some US$73 billion of electrical machinery and equipment in 2021, which makes up 28% of all ASEAN exports to the US. United States also imports other electrical machinery from Malaysia (US$1.73 billion), Indonesia (US$1.05 billion) and Thailand (US$1.04 billion).

What Does It Leave The Automakers?

Ford CFO John Lawler told Bloomberg TV the incident will have a negative impact on deliveries of parts. He said Ford is looking to reroute car parts to other east coast ports and it would draw on its experience with COVID-related supply chain disruptions, but that the supply chains will inevitably be lengthened. 

“It’s a large port with a lot of flow through it, so it’s going to have an impact. We’ll work on the workarounds,” he added.

GM spokesman Kevin Kelly said GM uses the port to ship some vehicles “to select export markets”. GM exports the Chevrolet Corvette, built in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to the United Kingdom through Baltimore as one example. Kelly said GM is working with its logistics providers to find shipping options at other ports, but GM expects only a minor impact on operations.

Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in an emailed statement, “The Port of Baltimore is an important waterway for the automotive industry. We are initiating discussions with our various transportation providers on contingency plans to ensure an uninterrupted flow of vehicles to our customers and will continue to carefully monitor this situation.”

Port of Baltimore issued a statement giving no definite date of vessel traffic resumption, which says a lot about verticals affected. If these equipment cannot make into the US, that might just mean another episode of supply chain issues and freight price gouging. Japan has officially entered a recession  with one export sector forcefully paused, the ripple will reach ASEAN suppliers.  

Although there are other ports on the East Coast, it does not translate directly to business as usual. Port capacities would be a question in terms of port throughput, and the stranded cargo contends with waiting time or even diverting further to the West.

Kevin Linderman, Professor and Supply Chain Expert at Pennsylvania State University, said: “They will likely have to reroute shipping to other ports on the East Coast. However, this will put additional demand on these ports, and shippers may not be able to access US markets.”

Apart from auto parts, construction machinery is also affected. Reuters noted at least 40 ships are now more or less trapped inside the port, and some 30 others planned to arrive there.





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