Baltimore’s Devastating Bridge Collapse Unlikely to Have a Major Impact on Footwear Shipments

Tuesday’s devastating collapse of a bridge in Baltimore is already impacting operations in the Port of Baltimore. Though footwear, which accounts for a small portions of imports there, will likely not be majorly affected.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed early Tuesday after a large container ship hit one of the bridge’s columns. The impact sent vehicles and people into the nearby Patapsco River and blocked access to the city’s port. Baltimore City fire chief James Wallace said an active search and rescue is being coordinated for seven people that are still missing — two people have been rescued.

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In addition to the human toll, the bridge collapse has halted all vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore until further notice, though the port is still open for truck transports.

Baltimore is one of the smaller container ports in the Northeast and mainly imports and exports autos, trucks and farm vehicles, explained Craig Johnson, founder of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners.

“Apparel and accessories are minimal in comparison, and cargo ships will of course need to get re-routed to other eastern ports,” he said. This, he explained, could potentially affect “back to school shipments slightly,” but won’t be “a show-stopper.”

According to data from American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), Baltimore accounted for 0.79 percent of footwear imports to the U.S. by volume and 8.78 percent footwear imports to the U.S. by value in 2023. That same year, Baltimore accounted for 0.23 percent of apparel imports to the U.S. by volume and 0.30 percent of apparel imports to the U.S. by value.

“This tragedy is horrific and our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” said AAFA chief executive officer Steve Lamar. “This disastrous bridge collapse may impair the ability of Baltimore to operate for some time to come, requiring diversion to other East Coast ports.”

The Baltimore-based Under Armour, which also issued a statement in light of the tragedy.

“We are deeply saddened by the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and devastated for the families of those affected by it,” the company said in a statement on LinkedIn. “Under Armour has been in touch with Governor Wes Moore’s office and Mayor Brandon Scott’s Office to see how we can best support during this difficult time. As we process this tragedy, we want to express our gratitude for the rescue personnel across the various interagency departments in Maryland. Baltimore, our home, is resilient, and we stand ready to assist in our city’s recovery.”

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