In the predawn hours of Tuesday, March 26, efforts began to comprehend and address the impacts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse on industrial tenants around the port.

First responders were conducting a perilous search and rescue operation for six construction workers who died in the tragedy. Federal, state, and local officials were beginning to tackle the mammoth challenge of clearing away the wrecked bridge and reopening the Port of Baltimore.

Meanwhile, CRE professionals and their tenants were trying to fathom the possible impacts of the disaster on shipping, on businesses, on employees and looking for opportunities to reduce that damage.

“When the bridge collapse happened, Tradepoint Atlantic started getting phone calls in the middle of the night,” said Toby Mink, Executive Vice President of CBRE. “We work with Tradepoint Atlantic. At five o’clock that morning, Tradepoint said we are going to do the right thing and help however we can.”

CBRE officials soon realized there were more opportunities to provide that assistance than most people previously recognized.

“We received hundreds of phone calls within the first 48 hours from barge operators, commodity users, and others” who were looking to move a remarkable array of goods, Mink said.

Tradepoint Atlantic soon made plans to provide space for recovery crews to land salvaged bridge wreckage as well as plans to expand cargo operations at Tradepoint. With the aid of federal funds, Tradepoint rapidly added new asphalt to move additional vehicles from RO-RO (roll-on, roll-off) vessels. It designated periods for additional ships to offload at its terminals and crafted a few unique shipping solutions.

“Pompeian Olive Oil, which has operated in Maryland for 120 years, had a delivery they needed to drop off in Baltimore,” Mink said. “Tradepoint ended up helping them run a 600-foot hose from the vessel to the shore so they could move the oil by truck to their facility.”

The morning after the Key Bridge collapse, Prologis Market Officer and Senior Vice President Danielle Schline was working to understand and prepare for economic challenges at the port.

“That morning, I visited 12 customers that are positioned right at the Port of Baltimore,” Schline said. “As you can imagine, everybody was just triaging the situation. They were all trying to figure out where their ships were being diverted to and how to get that product as quickly as possible to Baltimore.”

In the following days, those customers began to feel significant impacts from the inability to move food, beverages, retail goods and other products through the port. Most made arrangements to move goods 200 to 250 miles by truck or rail from other ports to Baltimore. And Prologis presented another solution.

“We offered them temporary space in other port markets,” Schline said.

Although some customers discussed that possibility, no one opted to shift their warehouse operations to another port.

“The sentiment among our customers is that this is a significant disruption to their business in the short term and they expect to restore full operations within months after the port reopens,” Schline said. “We find that Baltimore is a very stable market with plenty of optionality so our customers can and have used our central location in Baltimore to divert shipments quickly to New York, New Jersey and Norfolk… Our customers expect their business to return to the Baltimore market and they really are committed to this region and the Port of Baltimore so they didn’t want to take temporary space elsewhere.”

Schline, Mink and others say the speed of recovery efforts has been key to convincing companies not to move out of state. The port received its first inbound container vessel this week and authorities expect to open a two-way, deep-water shipping channel by the end of May that could support full port operations.

Rapidly deployed aid programs by federal, state and local governments as well as by local companies and nonprofit organizations have also enabled many companies to withstand the port shutdown and support workers.

The Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) and the Baltimore Community Foundation launched the Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong Alliance in the wake of the tragedy. With support from more than 120 partners, the Alliance committed $15 million to minimize the tragedy’s impact on local communities, companies and workers, said Pothik Chatterjee, GBC’s Chief Economic Officer.

“A priority has been ensuring that companies don’t leave Baltimore,” Chatterjee said. “Broadly speaking, that has been very successful. We have seen a real commitment from large businesses to weather the short-term pain and stay committed to the Port of Baltimore.”

NAIOP Maryland donated to the cause last month.

The bridge collapse, he added, has also created heightened local and national awareness of the economic importance of the port and its service to the region and the nation.

“The Port of Baltimore supports nearly $15 million of economic activity a day,” said Dr. Darius Irani, Chief Economist for the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University. “It employs about 15,000 people directly and supports 140,000 associated jobs which are spread from western Maryland to the Eastern Shore. And it generates between $1.1 million and $1.5 million per day in state and local taxes.”

That economic impact, Chatterjee said, along with the port’s large role in the shipment of cars, construction and agricultural equipment, coal, soy, sugar, retail goods and other commodities will also support efforts to quickly rebuild the bridge.

Some industry watchers say the bridge collapse could even drive the expansion of port facilities.

Earlier this year, Tradepoint Atlantic announced the formation of a joint venture with a subsidiary of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) to build a $1 billion private container terminal at Tradepoint. This week, the joint venture raised the prospect of accelerating that development.

The project would be “a game changer for the Port of Baltimore,” Mink said. “The new terminal will increase capacity for containerized cargo by 70 percent, bring with it 7,000 jobs, and grow and feed the region’s port economy for the next generation. Baltimore will build back bigger, better and more resilient. The global shipping community will certainly have to take notice.”