Amazon Selects Baltimore for Fulfillment Center

Amazon Selects Baltimore for Fulfillment Center

21 Jan, 2014

By Rachel Duran

Access to fully infrastructured site and port terminal vital to the company.

There are several reasons Amazon.com selected Baltimore as the location for a 1.1 million-square-foot facility last fall, including access to a robust consumer group in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metro, which is the nation’s third-largest market behind New York-New Jersey and Los Angeles-Long Beach, says Joe Greco, deputy director of trade development, Maryland Port Administration. The organization oversees the Port of Baltimore.

Joe Greco

Joe Greco

Amazon will also benefit from a proposed 24-hour back gate to the Seagirt Terminal at the port, as opposed to a normal operating time of nine hours.

Amazon is under construction at a former GM property located adjacent to the Port of Baltimore. The company expects to invest $212 million in the project, and hire 1,000 full-time workers. Greco says the project is moving at a fast pace, with Amazon aiming to be operational for the holiday season of 2014. The facility is located less than a mile from the Seagirt Terminal, which is the port’s main container facility.

The terminal is one of two on the U.S. East Coast that is big ship ready, accommodating super post-Panamax ships. “We have had a 50-foot shipping channel for many years,” Greco says. Through a long-term lease partnership with Ports America Chesapeake, expansion activities include a 50-foot berth. “The berth marries up to the channel, accommodating ships as large as 14,000 TEUs into Seagirt.

“So not only is water depth an important aspect, but also the air draft, which is the amount of space underneath any bridge

Supersized cranes at Seagirt Terminal. Photo credit: Maryland Port Administration

Supersized cranes at Seagirt Terminal.
Photo credit: Maryland Port Administration

impedances that you have to traverse to get to the port,” Greco continues. “We have two bridges, the Key Bridge and the Bay Bridge that are 185 feet of air draft, as opposed to the Port of New York, which currently has a restriction with the Bayonne Bridge, which is at 160 feet.”

Seagirt also offers the cranes necessary to support the needs of large ships. “Through the partnership with Ports America we received four new high-speed super post-Panamax gantry cranes in June 2012, which have the capacity to reach 22 containers across,” Greco adds.

Additional Infrastructure in the Form of a Back Gate

The Port of Baltimore has a concept in place with Ports America to create a 24-hour back gate and valet service to move international containers from the Seagirt Terminal to the Amazon fulfillment center, which will be a 24-hour operation. “In addition to the proximity to reduce inland logistics costs you add in this back gate with the flexibility of 24-hour operations; we think that will be attractive to Amazon,” Greco says.

The Port of Baltimore also features other advantages attractive to fulfillment operations, such as the use of optical character recognition throughout the Seagirt Terminal to ensure the accuracy, speed and efficiency of the facility.

The Baltimore fulfillment center will be patterned off other operations in the country.  Photo credit: Amazon

The Baltimore fulfillment center will be patterned off other operations in the country.
Photo credit: Amazon

What’s more, companies are not looking at how fast terminal workers can work the vessel, “but I think almost more importantly to them is how quickly trucks can be serviced within the marine terminal itself,” Greco points out. “So not how long it takes the box to get off the ship but how long it takes trucks to get in and out of the facility to the final destination. We have a double move turn time in Seagirt that is 50 minutes.”

Greco says the Amazon project was an effort in which many agencies, including the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), worked on. Amazon qualifies for One Maryland tax credits, valued at up to $5.5 million, which are available for development projects in qualifying areas. According to DBED, the tax credits could exceed $43 million, spread across multiple tax cycles.

Rachel Duran

Rachel Duran is the editor in chief for Business Xpansion Journal. Contact her at rduran@latitude3.com.

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