War likely to cause further cuts in business at troubled port of Baltimore WAR IN THE GULF

January 17, 1991|By Kim Clark

The outbreak of war will likely cause further turmoil in Baltimore's troubled port, shipping industry officials said last night.

Even before U.S. aircraft began attacking Iraq, the six-month buildup for war in the Persian Gulf had cut the number of shipping lines coming to the port.

Shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, several governments, vTC including those of Britain and the United States, chartered ships that had been making calls here to move military equipment to the Middle East, the officials said.

As a result, at least one shipping line has eliminated its stops in Baltimore.

And now that fighting has erupted, some shipping companies are likely to cut out trips to the Middle East, those involved with the industry say.

James D. Skeen, a Baltimore attorney who specializes in admiralty law, said a doctrine called "force majeure" releases shipping companies from their obligations to deliver goods in war-torn areas.

In addition, since most insurance companies won't cover war damage, shipowners "would be crazy to go in there," Mr. Skeen said.

But some shipping companies probably will decide to risk delivering goods to the Middle East, Brendan W. O'Malley, chief of the Maryland Port Administration, said last night.

In addition, he said, the effect of the war on the port was likely to be mixed, since some lines might cancel Middle Eastern routes but the U.S. military was likely to increase shipments to the war area.

Marge Holtz, spokeswoman for the U.S. Military Sealift Command, which charters civilian ships to assist in mass mobilizations like Desert Shield, said the agency bids for ships on the open market and that companies are free to refuse the charter requests.

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