Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the ambassador of Kuwait are expected to sign an agreement tomorrow that could result in the shipment of thousands of tons of cargo through the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Under the agreement, to be signed in Annapolis by Schaefer and Ambassador Shaikh Saud Nasir Sabah, companies in the United States shipping cargo to Kuwait will be told by Kuwaiti officials to route goods through Baltimore "whenever it is economically feasible."
No other state has such an agreement with the Kuwaitis. Officials predict that the "memorandum of understanding" will give Maryland an edge in getting trade that will result from rebuilding Kuwait following the Persian Gulf war.
Jean AbiNader, executive director of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, said it is difficult to estimate how much business would move through Baltimore as a result.
Major U.S. automobile manufacturers are expected to ship about 50,000 cars to Kuwait in the next year, and American companies are expected to receive $100 million in contracts to resupply the educational and medical needs of the country. O. James Lighthizer, state secretary of transportation, said he hopes much of the cargo would move through Baltimore.
Maryland officials have agreed to set aside up to 90 acres at the new Seagirt Marine Terminal or at the Dundalk Marine or Masonville/Fairfield terminals. The state also has agreed to provide storage space, office facilities and ramp and aircraft-service areas at BWI for charter or scheduled air operations to airlift cargo to Kuwait.
The state Department of Transportation will provide legal help to ensure close coordination among federal, maritime, aviation and other federal agencies, and the Embassy of Kuwait.
The agreement also provides for a volunteer emergency relief team to provide health and medical services.
In addition, a number of projects will be undertaken as needed by the Kuwaitis. These include temporary shelter, health-care facilities, use of architectural and engineering services of Maryland companies and a priority procurement notification system to identify who can supply goods and services needed in Kuwait.
The companies that ship through the port or BWI will be given a competitive rate for the services provided, said a spokeswoman for the governor.
Maryland firms would be given priority to provide services, according to William Parsons, president of the Kuwait/Maryland Partnership.
The memorandum with Kuwait is the latest in a series of overtures the state has made to get a slice of the business opportunities in rebuilding the country. Schaefer had traveled in March with the Kuwaiti ambassador to view first-hand the destruction caused by the Iraqi invasion and gulf war.
In February, Schaefer met with the ambassador to offer the humanitarian business resources of Maryland in helping the country.