The port of Baltimore reported a 6.5 percent increase in general cargo at state piers during the first quarter of the year, but a big surge during the first two months stalled in March when general cargo tonnage declined 15.4 percent.
Two weeks ago, the Maryland Port Administration released cargo statistics showing that the port enjoyed a 21.7 percent increase in tonnage for the first two months of the year. While both imports and exports showed growth, exports of general cargo were particularly robust, rising almost 40 percent from the levels of January and February of last year.
The port was unable to keep the growth going through March.
Total general cargo handled at state piers totaled 426,905 tons in March, compared with 504,406 tons in March 1990, a decline of 15.4 percent.
Containers showed a 13.7 percent decline, falling to 341,739 tons in March, compared with 395,933 tons in March of last year.
For the three months, containers were up 2.2 percent from last year's first-quarter total. After two months, container traffic at the state's piers had been up 13.7 percent. Containers are a crucial commodity, since much of the state investment in the port has been on facilities designed primarily for handling container traffic.
In a prepared statement, Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer said, "The port is maintaining a stable base of cargo activity through a period of drastic economic downturn for the nation. Continued future growth at the port is dependent upon sound, organized management, stable labor relations and a concerted effort from the Baltimore maritime community to generate commercial activity through the port."
One of the brightest spots in the statistics came in steel.
Tonnage in that category more than doubled as the port handled more than 73,000 tons, compared with about 35,000 tons in the first quarter of last year.
The state has been trying to improve its steel capabilities and recently moved a crane from Dundalk Marine Terminal to North Locust Point Terminal, where many of the port's shipments of steel are unloaded.