3 lines choose Va. port over Baltimore's

January 04, 1991|By John H. Gormley Jr.

The Tricon group, a consortium of steamship lines the state had hoped to lure to the port of Baltimore, has selected Hampton Roads, Va., instead.

The decision was a serious disappointment for the Maryland Port Administration, which had hoped that its new Seagirt Marine Terminal would be an attraction for lines whose ships do not now call at Baltimore directly.

The MPA's prospects of bringing a new line to Baltimore now appear dim in view of the recent decisions of two other top Seagirt candidates.

In November, Taiwan-based Yangming announced that Baltimore would not be a port of call on its new East Coast schedule.

Last week, OOCL, a line based in Hong Kong, announced plans to revise its service from the Far East to the United States. The line did not say it planned to drop direct vessel service from the Far East to the East Coast of the United States, but an OOCL official confirmed yesterday that that was a possibility.

Manuel Diaz, the New York representative of Senator Line -- one of the three members of the Tricon group -- said yesterday that the consortium's ships will not call at Baltimore. The ships will call at New York, Hampton Roads, Va., Savannah, Ga., and Fernandina Beach, Fla., near Jacksonville.

Mr. Diaz said he did not know for certain why Baltimore was rejected. The recent two-day strike by longshoremen in Baltimore could have contributed to the decision, he said.

The decision was not the MPA's fault, he said. "They acted very professionally, very responsibly," he said.

Officials who examined East Coast ports on behalf of the consortium were impressed by Seagirt, Mr. Diaz said. "Who wouldn't be? Its a good facility," he said.

Bruce Cashon, head of marketing for the MPA, said he was disappointed by the Tricon decision. "We had a sense we were strongly in the running," he said, noting that Tricon invited the MPA to Atlanta last month to present its offer.

The MPA subsequently was told that Tricon considered the offer very appealing, Mr. Cashon said. "We gave them a very attractive proposal," he said.

Mr. Cashon conceded that the port's top prospects for new business have all faded. "There have been some closures on those," he said, adding that other prospects are in the wings, although the discussions are not as far along.

"Am I going to go out and cut my wrists? No. We'll just go back to work, that's all," he said.

OOCL had been serving East Coast ports through a partnership with two other Ear Eastern lines, Neptune Orient Line and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Line (K Line). Last week, OOCL said that it would drop out of that consortium. To serve the East Coast, the line said, effective in December it will depend more on intermodal deliveries. In other words, cargo from the Far East will be unloaded at West Coast ports and shipped east by train.

Al Benki, OOCL executive vice president, said yesterday, "Obviously, it's a possibility we won't have an all-water service." An all-water service from the Far East involves moving cargo on ships that use the Panama Canal to reach East Coast ports.

OOCL's service between the East Coast and northern Europe will not be affected, and the line's ships will still operate on the trans-Atlantic route, Mr. Benki said.

OOCL ships now call at Hampton Roads. The line charters a barge from Hale Container Line, which carries cargo between Baltimore and Hampton Roads.

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