Plan for port will save it in new marketRichard Clements...

LETTERS

July 18, 1996

Plan for port will save it in new market

Richard Clements' rejoinder (July 14, "Yoshitani plans are wrong for port") to your July 7 editorial on the future of the port of Baltimore demonstrates a refusal to accept the reality of what's happening in the shipping world. The strategic plan developed by the Maryland Port Administration was an attempt to shift from an obsolete paradigm.

Ocean carries are doing exactly what the airlines have done -- concentrating on load centers or hubs. Container ships are getting bigger and this excess capacity has forced the lines to enter into strategic alliances and share vessel space. The lines are looking to turn the vessels around from one port and feed into the others by smaller vessels, barges or overland transport. This phenomenon is occurring all over the world and, in fact, a recent trade journal article predicted only five surviving load centers worldwide.

Baltimore's problem, which was once its advantage, is its distance from the ocean. This is compounded by the need for constant channel dredging. But even our old adversary, Norfolk, Va., is concerned for the future. A recent visit by a Virginia Port office acknowledged as much and suggested a closer cooperation between us -- quoting Ben Franklin that if we don't hang together, we'll surely hang separately.

The fear expressed is that Charleston, S.C., virtually at seaboard and requiring little dredging, will survive as the second load center on the East Coast after New York.

The MPA has recognized the necessity for change and is trying to capture or, in many cases, recapture trade that Baltimore lost during our strong arrogant past. Fresh fruit, steel and meats were once our port's niche. Our facilities for handling these cargoes haven't changed. What is changing is our attitude toward them.

And we can still maintain our share of container traffic. By marketing our proximity to the Midwest and our lower truck rates, shippers can demand a Baltimore bill of lading, requiring the carriers to absorb the changes to or from the load center.

A closer examination of the strategic plan should convince Mr. Clements that Baltimore's proposed program will serve us well in a new shipping world.

M. Sigmund Shapiro

Baltimore

The writer is CEO of Samuel Shapiro & Co. Inc., a customs brokerage and international freight company.

Ulterior motive in De Francis attack

As a member of the horse racing community, I am alarmed and mystified at the sudden, orchestrated attack on Pimlico/ Laurel owner Joseph A. De Francis and Allan C. Levey, former chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission. Is it possible that certain other factions who feel they have a monopoly on other gaming operations in the state are feeling threatened?

The racing and breeding industry in Maryland employs about 20,000 people and generates $1 billion for the state economy. In order for this industry to remain healthy, Joe De Francis realized that we had to be competitive with the rest of the country.

In only two locations, $870 million went through the slots in Delaware in their first six months of operation. Because of the success of the slot machines, purses at the track were enhanced and horsemen found it more beneficial to race there. Joe De Francis predicted this. However, our legislature, in its infinite wisdom, decided to table slot legislation until 1997 so the legislators could see how badly our industry would be affected.

The other industry that perhaps should be scrutinized is politics, in particular how the people running for public office raise funds. Campaign finance laws are written with a definite ambiguity. They should be rewritten with clarity so that the recipient cannot play the innocent bystander.

Much pressure is applied to individuals and corporations to ''come to the party,'' with fund raising as the ultimate goal.

Is it possible that there is an undercurrent working against the success of the horse racing industry in Maryland? Is someone conspiring to besmirch and prevent the success of the industry or are they attempting to get rid of Joe De Francis?

Harriet L. Finkelstein

Baltimore

Description included stereotype of Jews

Ann LoLordo, reporting on the personal background and diplomatic career of Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Israel's new ambassador Washington (July 11, "Israeli hard-liner historian to assume hot seat in U.S. as diplomat"), made a statement to which I must take strong exception.

She wrote: ''The Israeli ambassador to Washington actually has two jobs: one as his country's representative to the U.S. government; the other as Israel's chief representative to the wealthy and powerful American-Jewish community."

''American-Jewish community'' would have sufficed. The adjectives ''wealthy and powerful'' add a stereotypical slant to her report, and with it she was no longer ''reporting'' but ''editorializing."

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