New Levant service docks first ship in Baltimore

February 12, 1991|By John H. Gormley Jr.

The port celebrated the arrival of the first ship in Levant Line's new service from Baltimore to the Mediterranean yesterday.

David Alouf, executive vice president of Constellation Navigation, general agents for Levant Line, said yesterday afternoon, "From the reports I had, the first day was perfect, very efficient. . . . If it continues like this, we made the right decision."

Earlier this month, Levant Line announced it was shifting its mid-Atlantic region port of call from Richmond, Va., to Baltimore. Yesterday, the Levant Pride, the first ship to come to Baltimore as part of that new service, loaded containers and fiberboard at Dundalk Marine Terminal.

There was one jarring note, however, from a port businessman upset over the line's decision not to use his non-union company because of what he called fears of union disruption.

William E. Lukowski, president of Fells Point Line Handlers, which uses non-union workers to secure the lines of ships when they dock, charged yesterday that pressure had been put on the line to keep his company from getting the business of tying up the ship.

His company tied up a Levant Line ship when it was in Baltimore in August, before the line had decided to make Baltimore a regular port of call. Until Friday afternoon, he expected Fells Point Line Handlers to tie up the Levant Pride yesterday. Then, about 4 p.m. Friday, his company was notified that it would not tie up the vessel, Mr. Lukowski said.

Mr. Lukowski said he suspects that someone dissuaded Levant from using his company by raising "the fear of possible labor problems."

Mr. Alouf confirmed that Mr. Lukowski's company was chosen originally to tie up the line's ships in Baltimore but that he decided to reverse that decision when he learned that Fells Point Line Handlers was not a union company.

Levant had been using non-ILA labor in Richmond, but the move to to Baltimore precipitated a decision to use International Longshoremen's Association labor here, Mr. Alouf explained. "Our philosophy is that when we go to an ILA port we work with the ILA," he said, adding that the line did not wish to become embroiled in union disputes. "I shy away from those problems," he said.

Mr. Alouf said he received a call Friday from Maurice C. Byan, president of the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore Inc., alerting him that Fells Point was not an ILA company. He then decided to use an ILA company, All Marine Moorings.

Mr. Byan said yesterday that when he talked to Mr. Alouf he did not try to persuade him to drop Fells Point Line Handlers. "I'm not going to fight the ILA's battles. . . . I'm not organizing for the ILA," he said. "All I did was inquire."

Mr. Lukowski said he was sure the ILA would not have wanted to mar the arrival of a new steamship line in the port by protesting the use of his company to tie up the ship.

Two years ago, Mr. Lukowski filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to try to stop ILA picketing of his operations. The picketing ended following a settlement by the two sides.

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