Va. port outbids Baltimore for Far East service

January 25, 1995|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Sun Staff Writer

NORFOLK, Va. -- The port of Baltimore has lost its bid for a much sought-after shipping service to the Far East after four major companies in a vessel-sharing arrangement chose Hampton Roads instead.

The shipping consortium notified port officials in Baltimore and in Hampton Roads yesterday that the Virginia facility had been selected as the mid-Atlantic port for its weekly service from the East Coast to the Far East.

In Norfolk, port officials said yesterday that the new service, which begins in April, would mean an additional 20,000 containers a year and up to 100 new jobs.

"This is really starting the new year out right," said Joe Dorto, general manager of Virginia International Terminals, which operates the Hampton Roads port.

The four companies included in the vessel-sharing arrangement were Ned Lloyd Lines, Orient Overseas Container Line, American President Line and Mitsui OSK. Lines Ltd.

In the cost-conscious shipping industry, steamship lines are increasingly pooling their cargo onto one ship.

While that arrangement saves money for shipping lines, it has cost ports valuable cargo and ship calls, which translate into jobs for port workers such as longshoremen and bay pilots.

Last year, for example, the amount of cargo handled by the Hampton Roads port, which includes facilities at Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News, declined for the first time in a decade, prompting officials there to seek new business more aggressively.

Both Baltimore and Hampton Roads competed intensely over the past six months for the service.

Morgan C. Bailey III, director of marketing for the Maryland Port Administration, said yesterday that Baltimore "was very aggressive in our rates and less costly than Norfolk."

But, he said, the consortium was concerned about scheduling and that it had an existing customer base in the Virginia-North Carolina area. Traveling up the Chesapeake Bay to the port of Baltimore takes a large carrier 10 hours. Hampton Roads is located just four miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

It was the second time in the past two weeks that the port of Baltimore has lost business, or potential business, to Norfolk -- its longtime mid-Atlantic rival port.

Maersk Line Inc. announced Jan. 12 that it was consolidating its South American service in Norfolk. The decision by the Danish shipping company means the loss of 52 ships a year in Baltimore, or nearly one-fifth of Maersk's total service.

In its decision to shift its service to Norfolk, Maersk also cited the need to maintain tight time schedules.

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