Yellen: Bridge collapse impact on economy being ‘tracked very closely’

Treasury secretary said Baltimore port a ‘very important’ and federal government will monitoring impacts to supply chain

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday during an event in metro Atlanta the federal government is watching closely the economic impact of the Baltimore port closure in the wake of Tuesday’s collapse of Maryland’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Yellen, who visited the Suniva solar panel plant in Norcross, was asked about the disaster in which a massive container ship smashed into a bridge support, causing it to collapse. She was asked specifically about whether the U.S. has port capacity elsewhere to avoid an increase in prices of goods, particularly with the prices of cars and trucks. Baltimore is a key U.S. port for import and export of vehicles.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen is in Norcorss at Suniva, a solar cell manufacturing facility, where she tours the facility with Suniva executives, including President and COO Matt Card, second from left, on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 touting the Inflation Reduction Act and touring the facility that is reopening thanks to those tax credits and a favorable solar market. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

“This is clearly a very important American port, and the president has indicated we will take every step possible to deal with supply chain disruptions and reopen the port,” Yellen said. “I know that our supply chain group is having a meeting today to assess what we know and what we think the likely implications will be. I don’t have any detail on that for you, but that is something we’re tracking very closely.”

The Baltimore port is closed indefinitely following the disaster. Two bodies of construction workers who were doing maintenance on the bridge at the time of the crash were recovered Wednesday and divers are searching for others presumed dead.

Container ship traffic is likely to be diverted to other East Coast ports, particularly in the mid-Atlantic, for some time.

Georgia’s container port in Savannah also could see a boost in business and the state’s port in Brunswick specializes in the movement of vehicles and heavy equipment and is another top East Coast port for imports and exports of both. Brunswick could see new vehicle business as a result.

The Baltimore disaster is likely to test supply chains that were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Manufacturers faced many issues, including challenges sourcing parts, that resulted in shortages in popular new vehicles during the early years of the pandemic. Prices of new and used cars surged as a result.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates to help combat rising prices and cool demand-fueled price increases in numerous products.

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