MPA gains more auto shipments

Ford agrees to send an extra 33,300 cars a year via city

`Confidence in the port'

State about to open new terminal, nears pact with Wallenius

Port of Baltimore

September 20, 2000|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

Ford Motor Co. has agreed to move an additional 33,300 or more cars through the port of Baltimore beginning next year as part of an agreement struck with the Maryland Port Administration and the port's largest vehicle processing company, state officials said yesterday.

Amports, a subsidiary of London-based Associated British Ports PLC, won the contract to handle the Ford line of vehicles, which includes everything from sport utility vehicles to luxury Volvo automobiles.

Details of the agreement are still being worked out, but state officials say the world's second-largest car manufacturer could move as many as 288,000 Ford and Volvo cars through the port over the course of the proposed three-year contract. Ford bought the Swedish auto manufacturer in a $6.5 billion deal approved last year.

The MPA agreement with Ford is one of a series of victories that Baltimore has claimed recently in its bid to become the No. 1 port in the nation for autos and other niche cargo that can be rolled on and off ships.

The port is close to completing a 10-year agreement with Wallenius Wilhelmsen, the world's largest carrier of autos and other roll-on/roll-off cargo, to develop an East Coast load center at Dundalk Marine Terminal for processing cars and heavy equipment. And port officials will open the gates next week on the 55-acre Masonville Marine Terminal, which is being leased by ATC Logistics International and will have room to park up to 7,000 additional cars.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and state transportation officials began courting Ford in earnest in November, playing host to company officials and demonstrating the port's quality assurance program in hopes that the company would move some of its business to Baltimore.

"This is definitely a substantial boost for the port of Baltimore and shows that importers and exporters and automobile companies have confidence in the port of Baltimore and its ability to meet their needs," said Michelle Byrnie, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Amports officials declined to comment on the deal yesterday, and a spokesman for Ford was unavailable for comment.

Ford moves about 45,000 vehicles through Baltimore annually. Amports will take over that business from Predelivery Service Corp., which operates at Dundalk Marine Terminal. The vehicles will be processed at Amports' Dundalk facility.

The agreement with Amports follows an industry trend as automobile manufacturers buy rivals and seek to consolidate their import and export operations at fewer ports. Baltimore launched a strategic plan in 1996 to attract such business in an effort to counter losses in its container cargo trade, which has steadily shifted to ports such as New York/New Jersey and Norfolk, Va.

Industry observers say the Ford deal will be good for other automobile processors in the port, even though it comes partly at the expense of one of them.

"It's always good for everybody when you get a new customer coming into the port, because it means there could always be someone else pulling in right behind them," said Howard L. Gable, president and chief operating officer of ATC Logistics, which also bid on the Ford contract.

"I think we're all friendly competitors," said Michael Robinson, general manager of Premier Automotive Services Inc., which processes about 70,000 vehicles annually in Baltimore. "Any piece of business, any additional cargo is a good thing" for the port.

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