Neptune Orient Lines, which port officials had hoped to lure to Baltimore, has apparently decided that it will remain in Norfolk, Va.
The Journal of Commerce, a New York-based trade newspaper, reported yesterday that the line has elected to continue to call at the same East Coast ports it currently serves: New York, Norfolk and Charleston, S.C.
Jill Simpson, NOL's marketing manager in San Francisco, said yesterday that she could not confirm that the line had definitely chosen Norfolk over Baltimore, but she added, "It looks like its headed for Norfolk."
The decision was a disappointment for Baltimore, which had been hoping to turn the tables on Norfolk by persuading a major line to send its ships here instead.
"I really was convinced they were coming," Anthony Chiarello, assistant vice president for Universal Maritime Service Corp., said.
Universal is a stevedoring company that had hoped to land the contract to handle NOL's terminal operations and to load and unload the line's ships in Baltimore. "It was very close. I think the decision was right down to the wire," Mr. Chiarello said.
He described the effort by port officials and private businesses to land NOL as "a full-court press."
"There was a tremendous push, a team effort," he said. "It's a shame the port wasn't able to get that one. It would have been a real shot in the arm."
As part of the "full-court press," Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer visited NOL officials this week in Singapore during the trade mission by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and other state officials to the Far East.
NOL apparently made its choice of ports on the East Coast late last week or early this week. It is not clear whether Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Lighthizer were told of the decision during their visit. They could not be reached for comment yesterday.