Just four days after returning from a weeklong marketing foray to South America, Baltimore's port director, Adrian G. Teel, departed yesterday on a 10-day mission to the Far East.
Mr. Teel intends to visit shippers and steamship lines in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. Some are current customers of the port, but the head of the Maryland Port Administration also hopes to lay the groundwork for new business.
"We'll be calling on prospective lines for Seagirt," Mr. Teel said, referring to the $250 million, high-tech marine terminal the state opened a year ago.
Even though the state's economic difficulties have forced all agencies to slash spending, Mr. Teel's foreign travels have the blessing of the governor, key legislators and port business leaders.
"As long as the money is spent wisely and we're seeing benefits, it's very difficult to question it," said Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, a member of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the port. In a reference to Hampton Roads, Va., he observed, "With another port down the road aggressively seeking business, I think we can do nothing less."
Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, chairman of the port oversight subcommittee, said that Mr. Teel should travel but needs to guard against extravagance. "We cannot stay home and expect to attract Far Eastern business from the World Trade Center," he said. "What people are saying is go, but don't have fun."
The port recently signed two major contracts with steamship lines courted by Gov. William Donald Schaefer on two of his recent foreign trade missions. On Tuesday, Maersk Line, long a mainstay at the port, signed a 10-year lease at Dundalk Marine Terminal; in September, Orient Overseas Container Line, which left the port several years ago, announced it would become a tenant at Seagirt.
During the Maersk signing ceremonies, Mr. Schaefer made a strong defense of foreign travel on behalf of the port. He said that his visit with Maersk officials at their headquarters in Denmark in June 1990 helped bring about the agreement and that his visit to Hong Kong in August 1990 was essential in bringing OOCL back to Baltimore. "That one I am sure came as a direct result of our visit," he said.
Mr. Teel's trip to South America cost the state about $30,000, according to J. C. Shay, a spokesman for the MPA. That figure included airfare, hotels and meals for the six-member MPA contingent that included state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer.
The trip to the Far East is expected to cost a comparable amount, Mr. Shay said. Mr. Teel will be accompanied by the MPA's head of marketing and by two members of the Maryland Port Commission, which serves as the MPA's board of directors.
John T. Menzies III, chairman of the private-sector port committee, said that "if you keep a sense of proportion," foreign travel "definitely makes sense."
The middle of a recession would be the wrong time to cut back, he added. "When business is bad, you cut the advertising budget and business gets worse," he said.