The port of Baltimore has been chosen as a port of call for a ship bringing military equipment back to the United States, giving the port the chance to persuade the government to route additional cargo ships through Baltimore.
Baltimore did not load a single military cargo ship during the massive effort to supply the U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf. Now that the direction of the cargo flow has reversed, the port will get at least one ship -- the Cape Ducato, due in Baltimore late next week or early the week after.
"This very definitely could lead to more," Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, said yesterday. Mrs. Bentley has been at the forefront of efforts to persuade the military to use Baltimore. William Lukowski, the head of the Baltimore company selected to act as the ship's agent, said that the economic impact of the military cargo from the Cape Ducato would not be great. Only about 150 pieces of heavy construction equipment will be unloaded before the ship continues on to Charleston, S.C., to unload the rest of its cargo.
Of greater importance will be whether the military is happy with the port's performance and decides to route more ships through here, he said.
The port was chosen by the Army's Military Traffic and Management Command.
Anthony Chiarello, an assistant vice president for Universal Maritime Service Corp., one of the stevedoring companies bidding to unload the ship, said that he expected cost to be the most important issue in winning additional business.
The Army initially refused to consider Baltimore because it had outdated information on port costs here, Mr. Chiarello said. The stevedoring companies have since submitted price information to show that Baltimore can move the gear economically, he said.
"This is an opportunity to show we can do the work," he said.
Horace Alston, the highest ranking official of the International Longshoremen's Association in Baltimore, said he expected the port's longshoremen to make the operation as efficient as possible.
While the Army selects the port, the ship is under the control of a branch of the Navy, the Military Sealift Command. Tom Walsh, a public affairs officer for the MSC in Bayonne, N.J., confirmed that the Cape Ducato is the only ship now scheduled to come to Baltimore.
However, the ship schedule has not been worked out far in advance for any of the ports that handled most of the outbound cargo, leaving open the possibility that more ships could be assigned to Baltimore as the sealift continues, he said.