State pact with Kuwait outlined Draft of agreement indicates 'discounts'

June 25, 1991|By John H. Gormley Jr. David Conn of The Sun's Business staff contributed to this article.

The Sun has obtained a draft copy of the memorandum of the agreement between Maryland and Kuwait to favor the port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Airport in handling reconstruction cargo bound for Kuwait.

The document indicates that the port has offered Kuwait the use of state-owned dock facilities at "significant discounts from normal land rental charges" and has agreed to provide a ship berth and two cargo cranes "at an appropriate Port of Baltimore facility upon a 24-hour notice."

In addition, the state port agency will provide "experienced port staff on a full-time basis, if necessary, to direct and expedite" the movement of cargo bound for Kuwait, according to the document.

The Evening Sun and the Washington Post have filed formal requests under the state's freedom of information statutes to see the full text of the agreement, but the state has refused and took the extraordinary step earlier this month of petitioning Baltimore Circuit Court to keep the document confidential.

The document obtained by The Sun is not the final version of the agreement, according to Norman E. Parker, an assistant attorney general representing the state in the petition to the Circuit Court. "What you have is not the final version," he said. "It looks like a draft."

While the draft of the agreement does talk about discounts, it does not provide any specifics. The compensation section of the document states that specific terms would be set out in "commercial contracts signed by the appropriate parties."

Although the final document could contain more sensitive information, the principal reason for withholding the document may have been given by Gov. William Donald Schaefer last week upon his return from a trade mission. "It is a matter of principle and honor with the ambassador [Saud Nasir al-Sabah] and myself. . . . Until the court tells me I have to release the papers, I am honor-bound not to do it," he said.

When the agreement was announced in early May, the state said that Kuwaiti cargo would be moved through Baltimore "whenever it is economically feasible."

The draft version states the idea in somewhat stronger terms, saying project cargo -- for example, all the materials and equipment needed to build a hospital or a refinery -- must move through the Maryland port or BWI "unless Kuwait certifies that it would be economically or technically infeasible to do so."

State port officials refused yesterday to comment on the text.

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