Seventh quarter of growth hailed


May 04, 1994|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Maryland Port AdministrationSun Staff Writer

Cargo handled by the port of Baltimore rose 21 percent during the first three months of this year, the largest quarterly increase in a decade, as the port capitalized on a boom in steel imports.

General cargo at the five state-owned terminals in Baltimore jumped from 1.3 million short tons handled in the first quarter of 1993 to 1.6 million short tons, according to a report yesterday by the Maryland Port Administration (MPA).

The MPA also released an economic impact study showing that 18,051 jobs are directly related to the port's existence -- with nearly half of those jobs held by Baltimore residents -- and an additional 6,625 jobs in retail and other service industries are generated indirectly by the port.

In the first quarter of 1994, each of the port's general cargo categories -- including containers, automobiles, steel and break bulk -- showed increases.

"What's extremely encouraging is that we are seeing across-the-board increases," said Michael P. Angelos, deputy executive director of the MPA, the state agency that oversees the port's operation.

Steel soared from 30,438 tons to 175,405 tons, or a 476 percent increase, as Baltimore benefited from a recovering U.S. economy that has strengthened the market for imported steel products.

In addition, Baltimore this year handled more of the steel diverted because of the annual winter closing of Great Lakes ports, as well as of the steel shipments sent southward by the unusual shutdown at some North Atlantic ports because of the severe winter.

While imported cargo increased nearly 40 percent, exports declined slightly. Nationwide, exports have dropped because weaker economies in Europe and Japan have diminished the demand for U.S. goods.

The cargo gains in Baltimore represent the seventh straight quarter of growth for the port of Baltimore, which had steadily lost business to Virginia's Hampton Roads port for nearly a decade before turning around in 1992. Typically, Baltimore's quarterly gains have ranged from 5 percent to 7 percent.

Linda Ford, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Port Authority, said yesterday that first-quarter cargo figures are not available yet, but that cargo there rose an average of 13 percent in January and February.

State officials credit the port's continuing success to the improved relationship between labor and management as well as to the more aggressive marketing efforts by the MPA and the private sector.

During the mid- to late 1980s, the port of Baltimore was well known for labor strife that hampered the movement of cargo. But during the past two years, labor leaders often traveled with port officials to assure potential customers that cargo will be efficiently and safely moved to and from the ships.

"The resurgence of the port of Baltimore continues to be one of our state's greatest success stories of the 1990s," Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday.

Port officials say they expect the upward trend to continue. However, the exceptional volume of steel shipments is expected to taper off.

Container traffic accounted for the largest portion of the port's general cargo, increasing 11 percent, to 1.1 million tons, during the first quarter.

Automobiles were up 10.5 percent, with imports climbing 8.4 percent and exports up 19 percent.


The number of jobs needed at the port for each 1,000 tons of the major types of cargo:

Type of cargo ... ... ... ... Jobs

Automobiles .. .. ... ... ... 1.74

Wood pulp ... ... ... ... ... .89

Containers .. ... ... ... ... .69

Paper ... ... ... ... ... ... .57

Grain ... ... ... ... ... ... .15

Coal ... ... ... ... .. .. .. .08

Iron ore ... ... ... .. .. .. .02

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