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Norfolk Southern begins detour moves of coal that normally moves through Port of Baltimore

The first train was delivered today to the railroad’s Lambert’s Point terminal in Norfolk, Va., as Norfolk Southern works with automotive, intermodal, and break bulk customers on alternate port options.

Norfolk Southern today delivered the first coal train diverted from the closed Port of Baltimore to the railroad’s Lambert’s Point coal terminal in Norfolk, Va.

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge following a March 26 strike by a container ship blocked access to the NS-served Consol coal terminal.

“At Norfolk Southern, we understand the importance of rapid response, frequent communication, and innovative solutions during significant supply chain events,” NS Chief Marketing Officer Ed Elkins said in a statement. “Leveraging our extensive franchise footprint and strategic partnerships with ocean carriers, short line railroads, East Coast ports, and other transportation providers, we are providing our customers with a flexible, reliable service product that they can count on in this time of need.”

Baltimore, the No. 2 coal port on the East Coast, handles coal mined primarily in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Lamberts Point, the largest coal export terminal in the Northern Hemisphere, has the capacity to take on diversions from Baltimore.

Meanwhile, NS on Friday will launch dedicated international intermodal service between the Elizabeth Marine Terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey and the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore.

The NS service — like similar service now offered by CSX — will provide a way around the blocked marine access to Seagirt. NS says it is in discussions with terminal operator Ports America to extend the new intermodal service directly on-dock at the Seagirt Intermodal Container Transfer Facility.

“Ports America is committed to deploying solutions that prioritize our customers’ needs,” Rob Kusiciel, chief commercial officer of Ports America, said in a statement. “Partnering with Norfolk Southern to manage the flow of cargo was a natural step for us to take in maintaining supply chain fluidity in the face of this crisis.”

NS subsidiary Triple Crown Services will work directly with cargo owners who need door-to-door service.

The railroad says it is in constant contact with affected international customers, ports, and state officials to keep supply chains moving. NS is, for example, collaborating with the Port of Virginia regarding key service points like the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal, to serve regions further afield, such as Western Maryland, Southern Pennsylvania, and Northern Virginia.

Although Norfolk Southern’s Baltimore automotive facility is not affected by the port outage, traffic destined to and from the Dundalk Marine Terminal is. NS has placed an embargo on traffic bound to Dundalk and is working with auto manufacturers on alternative ports in Florida, Georgia, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. Baltimore is the top automotive port on the East Coast.

Norfolk Southern also is assisting multiple customers with break bulk cargo that traditionally moves through the Port of Baltimore, including lumber, pulp, and roll-on/roll-off traffic. One option for these customers is shifting their traffic to Fairwinds Landing in Norfolk.

It remains unclear how long the Port of Baltimore will remain closed while crews remove bridge debris from the shipping channel in the Patapsco River.