Port turns profit, increases market share in 1992

February 03, 1993|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

The port of Baltimore ended 1992 on an upbeat note, registering its first gain in market share in five years and its first profitable fiscal year since 1988.

Despite sharp declines in steel exports, total cargo handled at state-owned piers rose slightly during 1992, giving the port its second straight year of increases, according to figures released yesterday by the Maryland Port Commission.

Also yesterday, The Maryland Port Administration said it finished fiscal year 1992, which ended June 30, in the black, with $1.4 million in net operating income. During the prior three years, the agency had lost money. The profitable trend continued for the first six months of fiscal year 1993, with the port reporting $1.1 million net operating income.

General cargo climbed to 5.16 million tons, a 0.3 percent increase over 1991. Significant gains in the last half of the year -- including a 6.2 percent increase in the fourth quarter -- offset drop-offs in the first six months.

The overall increase was attributed largely to the growth in container tonnage and a surge in break-bulk cargo, such as wood pulp. Both combined to offset a sharp decline in the steel exports, which fell by 128,010 tons at the public terminals.

In 1991, a weak dollar pushed steel exports to high levels, but last year's strengthened dollar, along with sluggish economies in Europeand Japan, caused a dramatic decline in steel exports nationwide. In addition, automobiles handled at the port fell more than 38,000 tons in 1992.

"The strong years we enjoyed in containers, farm and construction equipment and other niche cargoes allowed us to weather the uncertainty of the world marketplace," said Michael P. Angelos, deputy director of the MPA, which owns and oversees operations at four marine terminals and the Fairfield Auto Terminal.

Statistics released by the MPA yesterday also showed that Baltimore moved up in total market share when measured against its chief competitors -- New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk -- in the North Atlantic region.

In 1992, Baltimore's share of the North Atlantic market was 25.9 percent, compared to 35.8 for Norfolk, 20.9 percent for New York and 17.2 for Philadelphia. Port officials said only New York and Baltimore increased their market shares.

Baltimore's gain from 24.5 percent in 1991 to 25.9 percent last year came at the expense of Norfolk, which has lost business gradually since 1990, according to port officials.

They attributed the improvement here to better labor relations and the growing use of the Seagirt Marine Terminal, a container facility that opened more than two years ago.

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