Port Vacancy -- Again

March 03, 1994

Once again, state officials are searching for a new executive director to run the Maryland Port Administration. Only this time, there's no sense of urgency or impending doom. Adrian G. Teel has helped reverse the port's bleak situation; his successor will have the far easier task of continuing the momentum already set in motion.

When Mr. Teel took the job in 1991, his forte was finance and management. He cut the size of the bureaucracy, reorganized, boosted the port's marketing and started talking with labor leaders. This led to a stunning turnaround.

After years of steady decline, general cargo moving through the Port of Baltimore in 1993 rose 5 percent even as arch-rival Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News showed a 3.5 percent decline. Baltimore has seen its cargo grow for six straight quarters, a tribute to improved labor-management relations and Mr. Teel's focused marketing efforts.

In February, two new lines started using the port: South American service twice a month via three car/truck-carrying vessels and direct service to the Far East three times a month.

Much of this new activity is a result of vastly improved labor relations. Top union leaders are actively trying to recruit business, which translates into more work for members. The port's key Private Sector Committee is now led by the longshoremen's union boss, Richard Hughes, a sign of management's trust in the new partnership.

At the same time, efforts to privatize port activities have succeeded. There are now two separate, automated private gates within the Dundalk Marine Terminal and a third stevedore is developing a similar complex at South Locust Point Marine Terminal. Much of the port's overseas marketing efforts also have been put in private hands.

Mr. Teel will leave behind a port agency that is solidly in the black, that is making inroads against its competitors, that is thriving from an upbeat union attitude and that is beating the bushes aggressively looking for more maritime work.

All this is quite an achievement for someone who knew nothing about maritime matters when he took the job. No wonder state officials want to find a new port boss with an equally strong management and financial background as Mr. Teel. It's a formula for success that seems to have worked.

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