Led by an increase in steel and automobile exports, general cargo moving through Maryland's marine terminals during the first quarter increased 6.5 percent over the first three months of 1990. Shipments were still running below 1989 levels, however.
According to figures released yesterday by the Maryland Port Administration, 1.3 million tons of cargo were shipped through the port in the quarter, compared with 1.2 million tons in the same period the year before.
But the first-quarter shipments in 1990 were depressed by a three-day work stoppage and general uncertainty surrounding the labor situation. The quarter saw the lowest volume of cargo in the past two years.
During the first quarter of 1989, nearly 1.5 million tons of cargo were shipped through the port.
Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer said the latest figures are encouraging in light of the recession. "The port is maintaining a stable base of cargo activity through a period of drastic economic downturn for the nation," he said.
All categories of cargo, with the exception of lumber, increased at the state's terminals. Container cargo was up 2.2 percent; automobiles 17 percent; steel 109.4 percent; and other break bulk, 15.3 percent. Lumber was down 66.4 percent, according to the figures released by the port commission meeting.
Cargo was up 43.6 percent at the North Locust Point terminal and 8.3 percent at the Toyota terminal. At the new Seagirt Marine Terminal, which opened in the third quarter of last year, 208,956 tons of cargo were shipped. At the other terminals, cargo was down.
Lighthizer said he is optimistic that cargo will increase in the future as Maryland companies cultivate business in Kuwait under an agreement announced last week by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
The latest figures, while offering encouragement, show that Baltimore still lags behind its chief competition in Norfolk, Va. According to the Virginia Port Authority, 1.9 million tons of cargo were shipped through the Port of Hampton Roads during the first quarter, a 2 percent increase over the same period in 1990.
In the category of containers, which is critical to the competition between the ports, Virginia shipped 1.6 million containers in the first quarter, compared with 962,114 in Baltimore.
Yesterday's meeting of the port commission was the first without Brendan "Bud" O'Malley since he announced his resignation as executive director last month to go into private business.
O'Malley moved out of his office at the World Trade Center on April 26, although he continues to draw a salary derived from his paid vacation and other leaves, according to a spokeswoman at the Maryland Department of Transportation.
In announcing his resignation on April 17, O'Malley said he would apply for retirement benefits from the New York State Employee Retirement System. O'Malley worked 28 years for the Port of New York-New Jersey. A spokesman for the New York Office of the Comptroller said O'Malley is entitled to at least $50,000 a year in benefits from that system.
Lighthizer will temporarily take over the job as port director until a successor to O'Malley is found.