A decision by one of the world's largest steamship lines to return to the Port of Baltimore will increase business at the Seagirt Marine Terminal by 20 percent and give a much-needed boost to the year-old facility.
Maryland Port Administration Director Adrian Teel said that, with the signing of Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. (OOCL), the $250 million container cargo facility will be about 70 percent filled.
OOCL will be the fourth line to enter the high-tech facility, but the first new business Seagirt has garnered since it opened last September. Evergreen International Corp., Mediterranean Shipping Co. and Puerto Rico Marine Management Inc., which currently operate from Seagirt, moved from other facilities in the port.
"There are going to be more opportunities now," Teel said.
Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, who helped woo OOCL to the port, said it now should become easier to attract business to Seagirt.
"Whenever business sees another line coming in here, they think maybe it's going somewhere," she said.
"It's a lot more positive direction than a few years ago. Before it was like rats running off a sinking ship."
OOCL abandoned Baltimore seven years ago, reportedly dissatisfied with the service it received. Bentley said port officials at the time believed the line could easily be replaced.
Instead, the line was the first of a string of business losses at the port.
Last year, state officials led by Bentley and Gov. William Donald Schaefer extended an olive branch to OOCL on a visit to the
company's headquarters in Hong Kong. That was the start of a string of negotiations.
Bentley said she received a commitment from the port's labor unions that they would not instigate work stoppages or slowdowns against the line.
"We let them know that we cared," she said.
Nevertheless, OOCL probably wouldn't have signed without Seagirt, she said.
Michael Angelos, MPA deputy director, said that when the head of OOCL visited the terminal earlier this year he was impressed with its computer operations and high-powered cranes.
Teel said there is room for another major line to move into Seagirt and for the existing lines to expand their business there.
He said negotiations are under way, but no new announcements are pending.