BALTIMORE (WJZ)—In the midst of this down economy, a milestone at the Port of Baltimore. It is now the busiest international auto-shipping hub in the country.

Kai Jackson explains what it means for Baltimore.

It means big business for the state, and workers hope long term it means jobs.

The Port of Baltimore is Maryland’s main artery for shipping commerce in and out of the state.  Now the port has broken a record. It’s handled more international auto tonnage than any other U.S. port.

“It’s also a good time for the economy,” said Richard Scher, Maryland Port Administration. “It shows that consumer confidence is coming back slowly.”

The port moved 538,000 tons of autos in the first six months of 2011. It’s a 15 percent increase and outpaces other ports, including New York– one of Baltimore’s biggest competitors.

Port workers say it is big news for Baltimore, which has been fighting for more business.

“Anytime there’s roll on/roll off  car ships there’s a lot more man hours,” said Larry Lisica.

The process of moving vehicles from ship to shore or vice-versa is known as roll on/roll off.

The port generates about 16,700 direct jobs in Maryland. About 1,100 of those jobs involve the port’s auto business.

“It’s a good living if you stick with but you have lean times and you have good times,” Lisica said.

Governor Martin O’Malley says the new port record is a good step forward in Maryland’s efforts to rebound from the economy.