Shipping traffic into and out of the Port of Baltimore was suspended this week after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and there are implications for U.S. coal exporters.

The tragedy and subsequent interruption in operations may affect 2024 coal export volumes, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Port of Baltimore is the second-largest exporting hub (to Norfolk) for coal in the United States, moving 2 million to 2.4 million short tons of coal per month. The port accounted for 28% of total coal exports in 2023, according to Census Bureau data.

Exports from Baltimore increased to 28 million short tons in 2023, according to EIA, mainly because of growing demand for U.S. coal in Asia. The top recipient of U.S. steam coal shipped from Baltimore over the past five years has been India, where the brick manufacturing industry has been a major customer, the agency said.

In response to the bridge collapse and port closure, Consol Energy said it was considering plans such as moving coal tons through open terminals on the East Coast and increasing domestic shipments.

“We have initiated discussions with our customers and contingency plans are being implemented,” said a spokesperson for the company, one of the largest coal producers in the U.S.

It’s not clear how long the port will remain closed or when normal operations will resume.

“We have no information on timing for reopening,” said a spokesperson with the National Mining Association.

One attractive feature of the Port of Baltimore is its proximity to the northern Appalachia coal fields in western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia, EIA said. Steam coal, which is used mostly for electric power generation and industrial heating, is the dominant type of coal exported from the port.

Those steam coal shipments averaged around 12 million short tons from 2019 to 2022 before surging to 19 million short tons in 2023.

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