Cooper/T. Smith, a nationally prominent stevedoring company, has expanded its presence at the port of Baltimore, leasing space at the North Locust Point terminal to set up an independent operation.
Until last week, the Mobile, Ala.-based company had operated at Dundalk Marine Terminal, where it subcontracted both space and a labor force from Universal Maritime Service Corp.
The move to establish an independent operation -- under which Cooper/T. Smith is hiring longshoremen directly -- gives the port its fourth major stevedoring company. On behalf of steamship lines, stevedoring firms hire longshoremen to load and unload steamships.
But until the company attracts more cargo, the shift to an independent operation at North Locust Point would not mean more work for longshoremen.
"What it will do, however, is keep Baltimore at least in the forefront of securing new cargo," Joe Hall, senior vice president of Cooper, said yesterday.
"And we hope to attract new business, which will generate more cargo," he added.
The competition ideally produces better rates and service, which should help attract more steamship lines to the port.
"It means more choices for our customers," said Michael P. Angelos, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, which oversees operation of the state's five public marine terminals.
The company handles services for six steamship lines that bring a total of 12 ships a month to Baltimore.
Cooper/T. Smith is a privately held company, run by the third generation of the Cooper family.
It operates at most ports between Virginia and Florida, in addition to many along the Gulf of Mexico and on the West Coast.
It operated at Dundalk Marine Terminal from 1990 until its shift to North Locust Point last week.
Mr. Angelos said he expected steel shippers to begin sending more steel through the port because they are favorably impressed with Cooper/ T. Smith.
North Locust Point, which has one container crane and four modern, deep-water berths, is known as a particularly good terminal for handling break bulk cargo, such as steel.
Because of the company's shift, North Locust Point will get its first container service as South African Marine (SAF)/Bank Line, which is handled by Cooper/T. Smith, shifts some service there.