Turnaround at the port

December 16, 1991

Rep. Helen Bentley last week proclaimed 1991 as the year the Port of Baltimore began to reverse its long decline. That's an optimistic message, but there is evidence to support the claim. For the first time in recent memory, the good news from the port has outnumbered the stories of labor unrest or departing shipping lines. Some contracts -- notably the Maersk Line's 10-year lease and the deal that lured the Orient Overseas Container Line back from Hampton Roads, Va. -- represent major successes.

Under director Adrian Teel the port has been shaping up in other ways as well. In September Teel announced plans to streamline operations, including the elimination of 72 positions, in order to control a three-year-old budget deficit that was threatening to become permanent.

Teel has proven to be an effective leader at the port, but he is also benefiting from a new, more cooperative spirit. After years of decline, it appears that labor leaders and management alike have realized that they truly are dependent on each other, that neither can prosper without the other.

As cooperation replaces confrontation, even small successes begin to add up. With the economy in bad shape, the encouraging cargo figures for the first half of the year have dropped somewhat. But at last the port seems poised to build on success, rather than continuing its long, painful and costly slide.

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