Clearing A Path For Dredges

January 06, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Ellicott Machine Corp., a staunch supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement, is already reaping the benefits of the new trade pact with the recent order from Mexican companies for two new dredges worth almost $1 million.

"We were pleasantly surprised," said Peter A. Bowe, president of the dredge-making company, located on Bush Street in South Baltimore.

To drive home the point of the trade pact's importance to the deal, the Mexican companies are naming the dredges after President Clinton and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Mr. Bowe said that his company served as an unofficial "poster child" of the Clinton administration's NAFTA campaign -- held up as an example of a company that would benefit from the pact.

This effort included a political pep rally on Oct. 14 at Ellicott's plant attended by U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico F. Pena and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, during which the plant's workers, members of the United Steel Workers, cheered their support.

The company, which has 100 workers, had expected to see some results from the pact in six months to a year. But on Dec. 23 -- a little more than a month after the agreement was signed -- Ellicott received an order for two of the company's Dragon dredges from two Mexican companies that are building an interstate highway between the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz.

The dredges, which weigh 25 tons each, will be shipped in the next two weeks. The companies -- CIA Constructora Diaz Leal and Ing. Manual Ordonez Galan -- told Ellicott that it waited until after NAFTA was approved to take advantage of the lower duties, Mr. Bowe said.

Under NAFTA, the 10 percent duty on the dredges will be reduced by one-tenth annually over a 10-year period. Under this schedule, the duty on the two Ellicott dredges will be cut by $10,000 the first year.

But Ellicott plans to file a request with the U.S. Trade Representative's Office to eliminate the duty altogether. That would help both countries, since there are no dredge manufacturers in Mexico, Mr. Bowe said.

The Ellicott contract may be the first concrete result of NAFTA in Maryland, said Curt Matthews, a spokesman for the Maryland International Division. "That is pretty fast action," he said. "I hope it is the first of many."

Mexico had been one of the company's largest customers during the oil-drilling boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But Mexican business has been scarce in recent years, Mr. Bowe said.

But with the recent contract, Ellicott has nearly matched its total business to Mexico last year, and more is in the works, Mr. Bowe said.

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