Mideast service to use port 3 major lines start new venture

February 23, 1993|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

The port of Baltimore has been selected as the mid-Atlantic port of call for a new consolidated service by three of the world's largest containership lines.

The new service -- combining existing ones offered by Maersk Line, P&O Containers Ltd. and Sea-Land Service Inc. -- would result in weekly service starting in April between Baltimore and ports in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and India, according to the Maryland Port Administration.

MPA officials said the inclusion of Sea-Land in the joint venture would, for the first time, give Baltimore a regular American-flagged carrier going to the Middle East. Under U.S. law, only U.S. flagged vessels can transport American-made military equipment and supplies.

"We have never been able to get that cargo in the past. At least we have the opportunity now," said Morgan C. Bailey III, the MPA's director of marketing.

Military cargo currently moves through competing ports that are served by Sea-Land and other American-flagged carriers.

The container line partnership stemmed from a growing movement by major shipping lines to share vessels to cut costs and become more competitive.

Maersk, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, now offers service to the Mediterranean from Baltimore every two weeks. The addition of the other two lines, which do not serve Baltimore, would result in 26 more vessels at the port each year, according to the MPA.

Maersk refused to comment on the new service yesterday, pending formal approval from the Federal Maritime Commission. Port officials said Baltimore was selected because Maersk has a 10-year lease at Dundalk Marine Terminal.

In January, Maersk increased calls here by 25 percent because of the company's decision to expand service to South America. The decision to use Baltimore at that time also stemmed from the lease commitment, company officials said.

One of the biggest shipping lines in the port, Maersk moves more than a half-million tons a year, or about one in every seven containers handled on state-owned piers in Maryland.

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