After a string of bad-news announcements, the Port of Baltimore finally received some uplifting news last month: A giant corporation in the shipping world has decided to reestablish ties to Baltimore. If the Hong Kong line, Orient Overseas Container Line, likes what it sees (and it should) Baltimore could wind up with oodles of new containership business.
Cargo at the ultra-modern Seagirt Marine Terminal should rise 20 percent because of OOCL's weekly ship arrival. And discussions with longshoremen's unions and officials of the bay pilots association could ensure a remarkably smooth -- and cost-effective -- stay in Baltimore.
Finally, a new steamship line has discovered the vast potential of the state-of-the-art Seagirt facility, which can move container cargo at high speed on and off ships and nearby trucks and rail cars. Seagirt is tailor-made for high-volume steamship lines such as OOCL and the company's decision to bring its business back to Baltimore could influence other competitors to follow its lead.
The company's move is a direct result of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's overseas journey last year to Hong Kong to meet with OOCL's chief, C.H. Tung. It is another example of how these foreign trips can yield long-term dividends for Maryland. Without that high-level contact, OOCL would still be firmly entrenched exclusively at Norfolk. Now Baltimore has a chance to demonstrate its willingness and eagerness to handle OOCL's containers expeditiously and inexpensively and possibly pick up more of the cargo now being routed through Norfolk.
Adrian Teel, the new port administrator, now has the impetus he needs to embark on an aggressive marketing drive to lure other shipping lines to Seagirt and the port's other public docks. If the longshoremen's union remains cooperative, the port could greatly increase the amount of tonnage going through its public docks. OOCL's return could mark the start of something big.