Evergreen extends contract with port Glendening gets deal on first day in Taiwan

November 12, 1996|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

On the first day of a week-long trip to Asia, Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced an agreement yesterday in Taiwan with Evergreen Marine Corp. that should keep the Port of Baltimore's largest steamship line here at least another five years.

Under the arrangement, Evergreen will continue to use Seagirt Marine Terminal through January 2002. Evergreen's current three-year contract was scheduled to expire the end of December.

With the loss this year of Maersk Line, the port's other major carrier, the contract with Evergreen was seen as particularly critical. While such agreements, however, are significant in terms of a shipping line's commitment, they do not guarantee that a carrier will continue to bring ships here. Maersk, for instance, signed a 10-year lease at Dundalk Marine Terminal in 1991, only to end most of its shipping service here this year.

Evergreen has served the port of Baltimore since 1975, initially calling at Dundalk Marine Terminal. In 1990, Evergreen shifted its operations from Dundalk to Seagirt shortly after that state-of-the-art facility opened.

"Evergreen has found a home at the Seagirt Marine Terminal, which is one of the world's more technologically advanced container-handling facilities," Glendening said in a statement released yesterday from Taipei.

Indeed, Seagirt, with its high-speed "dual hoist" cranes capable of moving 25 containers an hour, is known as one of the East Coast's most advanced container terminals. Yet the $300 million facility -- planned and built in the late 1980s when the maritime industry was booming -- has become nearly a ghost town.

In recent years, revolutionary changes in the maritime industry have resulted in carriers consolidating their cargo and calling on fewer ports. Last year, Navieras, a Puerto Rican line that used Seagirt, ended its weekly service to Baltimore. Today, Evergreen is one of the few major lines serving Seagirt.

In the six years since it moved to Seagirt, Evergreen has seen its business increase substantially. During the first quarter of 1996, when container tonnage was down portwide, Evergreen's tonnage rose 16 percent over the first quarter of 1995.

Evergreen is one of the largest container ship operators in the world, with 73 vessels in operation. The company was established in 1968 by Chairman Y. F. Chang, who signed the agreement with Glendening yesterday at Evergreen's headquarters in Taipei.

Evergreen officials here could not be reached for comment.

Glendening said the state's plan for disposing dredge material was one of the reasons Evergreen signed the agreement. With ships increasing in size, large carriers want assurances that shipping channels will be deep enough to accommodate them.

Accompanied by other senior state officials, Glendening is spending the week in Asia. Efforts to shore up business and attract new companies for the port and airport are key priorities.

State officials also are meeting with officials of EVA Air about the possibility of serving Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where a new $130 international terminal is under way.

EVA was formed in 1989 and is operated by Evergreen Marine Corp.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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