Shipyard owner sues Mittal over gate access

BUSINESS DIGEST

August 30, 2007|By June Arney | June Arney,Sun reporter

The majority owner of the Sparrows Point shipyard has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Mittal Steel USA Inc. of denying it access to the main shipyard gate, forcing truck traffic into dangerous and time-consuming back routes.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore this week seeks actual damages of more than $75,000 plus $500,000 in punitive damages against Mittal, which owns the former Bethlehem Steel complex at Sparrows Point.

A Mittal spokesman said yesterday that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

An attorney for the shipyard owner, SPS Limited Partnership LLP, declined to elaborate on the contents of the lawsuit. The court papers do not make clear the extent to which access to the shipyard is being restricted.

SPS acquired the shipyard in March 2004 and an easement that allows access to the gate at that same time, the lawsuit said. That access was from Route 158, Bethlehem Boulevard, to 600 Shipyard Road, according to the court papers.

Since that time, SPS has redeveloped the 226-acre defunct shipyard facility into an industrial park by leasing piers, land and buildings to companies that conduct ship repair, barge building and ship recycling, and to a venture proposing to build an ethanol processing plant.

The entrance that SPS has been forced to use is at the far north end of the shipyard, rather than in the center of the property - an access point that the lawsuit characterizes as "twisting, circuitous and unsafe."

An international joint venture led by Chicago-based Esmark Inc. has tentatively agreed to buy the steel mill at Sparrows Point from Mittal. The U.S. Justice Department forced Mittal to sell the mill as a condition of approving its acquisition of Arcelor SA.

june.arney@baltsun.com

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