Port's rebound continues, with 1995 tonnage up 2.1%

November 08, 1995|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Cargo moving through the port of Baltimore increased 2.1 percent in the first nine months of 1995, putting the port on a pace to top 6 million tons for the second straight year.

During the third quarter, the volume of cargo handled at the state's five public marine terminals dipped slightly, by 3,911 tons. But overall this year, it has risen to 4,779,428 short tons, compared with 4,682,335 short tons for the nine-month period in 1994.

The port experienced a 17 percent growth in cargo in 1994.

In the past two years, the port has steadily been regaining cargo after experiencing a sharp decline during the late 1980s and 1990s. Last year was the first time that general cargo handled at the state's marine terminals had topped 6 million since 1989. In the port's heyday during the 1970s, general cargo exceeded 7.5 million tons.

With the current strong demand for American-made products overseas, the port has seen a 14.7 percent surge in exports this year, with heavy gains in steel and other breakbulk cargo. Imports, however, have dropped off 6.8 percent.

Tay Yoshitani, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, yesterday reiterated that Baltimore must aggressively seek specific kinds of cargo in its increasingly competitive battle with other East Coast ports. In recent years, for example, efforts to capture specific cargo -- such as farm and construction equipment -- have produced significant gains here.

"Baltimore knows what it does better than any other port and we intend to target our marketing for success in these areas," Mr. Yoshitani said yesterday.

The latest statistics underscore Baltimore's need to more aggressively target containerized cargo. In the third quarter, the port saw container tonnage drop by 36,890 tons, or 3.2 percent, from 1,154,533 short tons to 1,117,643 short tons. Containers represent about 75 percent of the general cargo moving through the public terminals.

That drop was, in part, accounted for by Maersk Line Inc.'s decision to shift its inbound Middle East service from Baltimore to Norfolk earlier this year and by its two-month suspension of South American service from Baltimore.

In addition, Navieras, a major Puerto Rican shipping line at the port, dropped its long-time weekly service here.

Overall, however, the number of ships calling at Baltimore is up this year, with such major lines as China Ocean Shipping Co. boosting service.

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