One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business leaders. Maurice Byan was appointed interim president of the Steamship Trade Association last August and recently was appointed president.
Q. Can you briefly explain what the Steamship Trade Association is and how it began?
A. It's an association of maritime-related businesses or businesses that do maritime work, not necessarily just employers of ILA (International Longshoreman's Association). We represent these firms in dealings with the ILA, such as contract negotiations and administration of negotiations--also in trusteeship of the various ILA funds.
Q. And how did this organization begin?
A. It began in 1929. The companies at that time felt that rather than dealing with the union separately, to have an association -- not just in dealing with the unions but in dealing with business matters -- an association has force.
Q. Describe your own involvement in the STA.
A. Well, previously I was with the stevedoring company called Clark Maryland Terminals, and we were a a member of the Steamship Trade Association of Maryland, so I participated in trades, various committees [and] trusteeships, and I was also a director on the board.
Q. Can you tell me about your history with the Port?
A. I began my career on the waterfront in 1964 as a longshoreman in what was then Local 829, which is now 333. And I worked as a longshoreman until 1969 -- 5 years. Then I accepted a position in management in the operations department in what was then John T. Clark & Son. That was the predecessor of Clark Maryland Terminals. Basically, my career stayed with John T. Clark until 1984, when the company was sold to Furness Withy Terminals Ltd., a company that has terminals worldwide and is based out of the United Kingdom. Prior to the sale, I was vice president of operations and then after the sale, I was executive vice president, and in 1985, became president.
Q. Are you still associated with Clark Maryland?
A. Not since August . . . As president of the STA, you have to devote your full time -- this is a full-time position.
Q. When you went to work as a longshoreman, how old were you?
Q. When you switched from labor to management, was that a big adjustment for you?
A. Somewhat. But it was an easy adjustment. Labor relations back then were much easier . . . And the port was very busy, so that made for better labor relations.
Q. Have your own experiences in the ILA helped you?
A. I think it has, yes. You understand the problems of the longshoreman.
Q. How is the contract that you negotiated with the ILA working out?
A. I think very well. I been given some very positive responses from some stevedoring companies and steamship lines that it's working out well.
Q. With what aspects are they most pleased?
A. One positive is the midnight starts that we have. It seems that Maersk Lines, which is one of the largest in Baltimore, has used that more than any other line. And they've found it a very economical, cost-saving factor.
Q. I Baltimore has been loosing ground as a port. Has this contract gained you anything?
A. There's a lot of factors as to why we've lost cargo in Baltimore. One of the big mistakes is a lot of people think it's higher labor. That is a big mistake, because they're not the only factor. The contract that was negotiated this past December gives us the ability to bring cargo back. It's attractive in that it offers the midnight starts, the flex hours, reduced GAI (Guaranteed Annual Income), somewhat, [and] a reduced GAI wage, which no other port has done. So there are positives in the contract that can be put to good marketing use, and the STA has been doing that. Our marketing efforts in the Journal of Commerce, where we're pointing out the positives in the contract, have been helpful in promoting Baltimore for the rest of the nation.
Q. Any tangible results, or is it too early?
A. It is kind of early. You have to look, too, at the economic times.
Q. What other things contributed to the loss of cargo?
A. Deregulation of rail that made Baltimore lose its advantage as far as movement of cargo. Chesapeake Bay became a big factor, as steamship lines rationalized their cost and started reducing ports of call. Baltimore became an obvious port to reduce because of that trip up and down the bay. As ships became bigger, the C&P canal became an obstacle for those big ships to pass through. Some of them can't pass through. And then the labor enters, the labor-management.
Q. In December, you were quoted as saying you believed the rifts between labor and management could be healed. What steps do you see being taken toward that goal?