Competing for love boats

Cruise politics: Canton groundbreaking heats up rivalry for terminal to replace Dundalk's.

January 27, 2002

EVEN BEFORE Celebrity Cruises starts Caribbean sailings from Baltimore in a few weeks, two heavy hitters are fighting for an opportunity to build a replacement for Dundalk's scruffy cruise terminal.

Edwin F. Hale Sr., the banking and sports entrepreneur, wants cruise ships as part of his $100 million Canton Crossing office and retail complex, which broke ground last week.

John Paterakis Sr., who owns one of the nation's biggest bakery empires, wants cruise ships to moor near Fells Point, where he is planning to redevelop the site of a former AlliedSignal chromium plant.

The Maryland Port Administration will make the final selection. That decision should be made strictly on merits and not because one of the applicants is a more generous campaign contributor than the other.

Mr. Hale got something of a boost last week when Mayor Martin O'Malley endorsed the Canton location.

"There is no better site for a cruise ship terminal than this site," he declared at Canton Crossing's groundbreaking.

Indeed, the Canton waterfront is the more promising location for the terminal. It is deep enough, has plenty of space for long-term parking and has good access to the interstate network.

The AlliedSignal property would be more central. But it would require substantial initial dredging. And because it is so close to outflow from the Jones Falls, it silts up easily.

The Fells Point site also has other drawbacks.

It is at a narrow point of the harbor. Maneuvering big cruise ships there would be more difficult without hobbling pleasure boats and water taxis. The channel would get even more cramped if Liberty ship enthusiasts were to succeed in their efforts to build a long pier for the John W. Brown on the opposite shore.

Are Canton and AlliedSignal the only possible sites?

No.

The Maryland Port Administration should go for a site that allows future expansion and doesn't add to Inner Harbor congestion.

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