Baltimore's China connection

January 12, 1994

A key void in the Port of Baltimore's shipping schedule will soon be filled with the arrival of the first ship from the China Ocean Shipping Co. at the Seagirt Marine Terminal. Three times a month, Cosco vessels will visit Baltimore, giving the port direct access to the booming markets of the Far East.

Counties in the Far East and Southeast Asia will certainly play a markedly enhanced role in port commerce in the next few decades. China, for instance, had a gross national product growth rate of 13 percent last year, compared with this country's 3 percent GNP growth. The combined GNP rate for the countries of Southeast Asia was also more than double that of the U.S.

So Baltimore has much to gain from its new window on the Far East. If Cosco does well here, there's no telling what other lines to the Far East will turn to Baltimore. The port's export market could boom.

Besting the port in Hampton Roads for Cosco's business was a major coup. This means that Baltimore will be the port of entry for cargo arriving from China, Hong Kong and Singapore, while export cargo on the return trips will be accepted for delivery to Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Baltimore will be Cosco's only port of call in the mid-Atlantic region.

This news follows a stream of positive developments. The amount of cargo handled by the port continues to rise, the port agency is in the black again and labor harmony is erasing Baltimore's reputation for unstable working conditions.

Yet much remains to be done. Baltimore must work hard to overcome a geographic disadvantage that gives Hampton Roads a clear edge. Competition in the maritime industry is cut-throat. And shippers continue to seek less expensive means of transporting goods. The arrival of Cosco is news to cheer about, but only if port officials capitalize on what could be a bonanza of imports and exports moving through Baltimore.

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