Slowly but surely, the news from the port is looking up. In September a major shipping company, the Orient Overseas Container Line, indicated it would return to Baltimore after taking its business elsewhere seven years ago. Then came predictions that the Port of Baltimore stands a good chance of becoming a steel-loading center for the East Coast, followed by a report that with two months remaining in 1991, the port had already handled more coal exports than in any other year.
The latest news is the best of all. Maersk, one of the maritime industry's most respected companies and one that is critical to the port's future, has apparently consented to a 10-year lease agreement that will have a considerable impact on the local economy -- creating as many as 700 jobs, directly or indirectly, and generating as much as $33 million in annual revenue for the port and area businesses.
Aside from its considerable impact on the regional economy, the agreement is an important vote of confidence in the port. A 10-year compact is rare in the shipping industry -- three years is far more common. Moreover, when a large, well-managed company makes a long-term commitment, it sends a signal throughout the industry. Maersk's agreement says more loudly than any official pronouncement ever could that, after years of news dominated by reports of eroding business and management-labor strife, there is a bright future after all for the Port of Baltimore.