Representatives of one of the largest ship lines calling at Virginia's Port of Hampton Roads visited Baltimore's newest terminal this week and are studying the possibility of bringing business here.
Such a move by OOCL USA Inc. would be significant for several reasons: it was one of the first lines to abandon Baltimore in favor of arch-rival Hampton Roads. Also, it would be the first line to move to Seagirt Marine Terminal from another port, rather than just moving from another terminal in Baltimore.
Seagirt hosted its first ship call on Sept. 12. Two lines have leases there -- Evergreen and Mediterranean Shipping Co. -- and the state is seeking others.
"They are doing a study of the East Coast right now . . . I think we have a good opportunity to be their port of choice," said Michael Angelos, general manager of Maryland International Terminals.
MIT, the terminal operating arm of the Maryland Port Administration, runs Seagirt.
The $250 million facility was dedicated yesterday with a champagne and brass-band ceremony attended by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and other dignitaries.
In an interview afterward, Angelos said several officials of the Taiwan-based OOCL, including its director for operations, visited the terminal Tuesday. Longshoremen were moving cargo on and off a ship during the visit, despite a rainstorm.
"It was the best show we could have put together," Angelos said. Baltimore is trying to cast off an image as a port that stops work in the rain. A clause in the longshoremen's contract signed lTC earlier this year aids that effort by providing premium pay for work in inclement weather.
Brendan "Bud" O'Malley, executive director, and other port administration officials met with OOCL officials in Taiwan a few weeks ago and delivered a lease proposal.
They also met with officials of Yang Ming line, another carrier that suspended ship calls at Baltimore in favor of Hampton Roads. Angelos said Yang Ming has expressed interest in Seagirt and appears to be studying their operations also.
Meanwhile, representatives of area trucking firms met on Monday with Angelos and other officials to air concerns about the terminal's operations. Truckers have complained about lines backing up at the terminal's entrance, delaying the movement of cargo.
Yesterday, some truckers said the situation had improved.
"I was satisfied," said Gary Ringer, owner of Ringer Enterprises, a Baltimore trucking company, and an organizer of the meeting.
"My feeling is that with any new project there are going to be bugs but I can be very positive about Seagirt . . . People want this thing to work," Ringer said. A decision to keep the entrance gate open through the lunch hour, by staggering the meal times of workers, should help, he said.
Angelos said some operational changes have been made at the terminal to cut down on delays.