Port could become key steel-loading center, official says

October 17, 1991|By John H. Gormley Jr.

The port of Baltimore stands a good chance of becoming the principal port on the East Coast for the shipment of steel, a railroad executive said yesterday.

David J. Pope, director of international sales for CSX Transportation Inc., said that steel imports that have been moving to the Midwest via the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway might shift to East Coast ports. That creates the opportunity for an East Coast port to become a "load center" for shipments. And Baltimore is in "a good position" to become that load center, he said.

Baltimore is "as competitive as any port in the mid-Atlantic" for the handling of such specialized commodities as steel, Mr. Pope said.

He said that the emergence of a steel load center on the East Coast might occur soon.

The prize will go to the port that combines the best rail connections with the most efficient loading and unloading of ships, he said. "It boils down to where we get the best cooperation. That's what's going to count," he said.

The railroad will have to offer good rates to the Midwest, and stevedoring companies and labor will have to be productive.

Mr. Pope made his remarks at a trade conference in Baltimore held by Atkins International Ltd., a transportation services company.

The port has begun to show signs that it can compete effectively for the steel shipments. During the first six months of the year, 163,000 tons of steel moved over state-owned piers in Baltimore.

That represents a gain of almost 70 percent over the first six

months of last year.

Anthony Chiarello, assistant vice president of Universal Maritime Service Corp., a stevedoring company that has loaded three steel ships in Baltimore this year, said International Longshoremen's Association dockworkers here have handled steel very efficiently. On their first try this year at loading a ship with steel pipe, the longshoremen matched the productivity of dockworkers in Mobile, Ala., who regularly handle steel, Mr. Chiarello said. On the second ship, the Baltimore dockworkers doubled their productivity, he said.

This year, the Maryland Port Administration moved a container crane from Dundalk Marine Terminal to help improve steel handling at North Locust Point Marine Terminal.

Ports that could emerge as a steel load center include Philadelphia; Chester, Pa.; and Newport News, Va. Newport News is handling substantial amounts of steel imports.

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