Hobelmann gains export deal with GM Company will ship automaker's products to Israel from Balto.

May 29, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Hobelmann Port Services Inc. has lured General Motors Corp. back to the port of Baltimore after an absence of at least 10 years with a two-year contract to export the automaker's products to Israel.

Under terms of its agreement with GM, "we will probably handle 7,000 to 10,000 units a year," said Brendan O'Malley, vice president and chief operating officer of Hobelmann, which operates the port's private automobile terminals. "But we are hopeful they will be satisfied with our service and we can grow that business."

He said it could be a repeat of the company's contract with Chrysler Corp.

"We started with Chrysler in 1989 with those numbers and we are up to about 100,000 units," O'Malley said. "One year we did 120,000."

O'Malley declined to put a dollar value on the contract, saying that it can vary quite a bit. "Sometimes you have to do a lot of work on a car and sometimes you don't," he said.

The first shipments are scheduled to begin in August.

To handle the increased activity, O'Malley said, the company is rebuilding its Atlantic terminal on the Patapsco River in Fairfield. He said the $4 million to $5 million renovation would be completed in July.

O'Malley said the contract will probably result in some new jobs, but he couldn't say how many. He said present employment ranges between 250 and 300 workers, and the company handles about 140,000 vehicles a year.

The Hobelmann win does not affect the Maryland Port Administration's plans for the construction of an $18.6 million automobile terminal on a site known as Masonville on the south side of the Patapsco across from Fort McHenry.

American Port Services Inc., Hobelmann's parent company, has opposed the Masonville site, arguing there is not a need for additional automobile terminal space in the port, and the project would have it competing against a subsidized competitor.

J. Melvin Bafford, manager of international sales for the Port Administration, defended Masonville, saying that it would help lure even more auto export and import business to Baltimore.

He said the port is seeking to land the business of exporting GM vehicles made in Mexico and Japan. If successful, Bafford said, it could move an additional 120,000 to 125,000 vehicles through the port.

Baltimore is the nation's second largest port in terms of automobile imports and exports, according to Linda Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Port Administration. "We moved ahead of Jacksonville, Fla., at the end of 1997," she said. "New York is No. 1."

Jordan said the port handled 280,000 auto imports and exports last year.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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