A new steamship line consortium that port officials have been trying to lure to Baltimore has decided to keep sending its ships to the Philadelphia area instead, but Baltimore may still stand a chance of winning the line's business.
Senator Line, a German company, has aligned with Cho Yang Line, a South Korean company, and DSR Line, based in Germany. The consortium, known as Tricom, will allow the new group to expand Senator's around-the-world service, starting early next year. Baltimore has been competing with other East Coast ports for inclusion on Tricom's schedule.
Over the weekend, Tricom postponed it choice of ports.
"They made a decision not to make a decision," Thomas Kerrigan, a Maryland Port Administration marketing official, said yesterday. The chances are still good, he said, that Tricom will pick Baltimore as a port of call. "We have as good a chance as anyone. It's not a long shot by any means," he said.
Rex Wheeler, port manager for Southern Steam Inc., the agency that represents Senator in Baltimore, said he thinks Tricom deferred a decision until it can work out how the consortium will serve the New York market, the biggest on the East Coast. Only after that decision has been made will the line be in a position to select other ports.
Senator, with a fleet of 12 vessels, moves one group of ships east to west around the globe and a second group in the other direction. With 12 ships, Senator provided twice-monthly service in each direction. The consortium will increase the size of the fleet to 24 ships, allowing it to offer weekly service.
Senator now serves the Baltimore and New York markets from a terminal in Chester, Pa., just outside Philadelphia. That terminal is not expected to be able to handle the volume of traffic anticipated under the expanded service. Tricom would like its ships to call on New York directly, Mr. Wheeler said, but has been unable to work out arrangements.
If Tricom's ships continue to call at Chester, it will not make sense for them to stop at Baltimore, less than 100 miles away. If Tricom begins stopping at New York, Baltimore would become a candidate.
Baltimore port officials have made Tricom officials "a very attractive proposal" that "they would like to take," Mr. Wheeler said.
Mr. Kerrigan estimated that Tricom will handle about 500 containers a week in Baltimore, which would make the line one of the largest in the port. "We should all pray New York makes them a good offer and they accept," he said.