Trucks back up for hours as port of Baltimore terminal computer fails

October 19, 2007|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,SUN REPORTER

A computer glitch at a port of Baltimore terminal kept dozens of trucks from entering the port yesterday and forced them to line up for more than three hours on nearby streets, snarling traffic and taxing police officers.

"There was a whole slew of trucks," said Sgt. Robert Ways of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. "I've never seen so many trucks. But the drivers cooperated pretty good."

The problem was traced to a computer system that records the identity and contents of trucks entering and leaving Seagirt Marine Terminal. The system went down about 7 a.m. and was not fixed until 10:20 a.m., said Richard Scher, a spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration.

During the computer failure, no trucks delivering or expecting to pick up containers and other cargo could enter the terminal. Many formed a line stretching more than a mile along Broening Highway, the main artery leading to the Seagirt and Dundalk terminals. Other drivers, prodded by police, parked elsewhere.

Seagirt was the only terminal affected at the port. The others, Dundalk, North Locust Point, South Locust Point, Fairfield and Masonville, operated normally, Scher said.

Shortly after the system malfunctioned, he said, port officials contacted the Maryland Motor Truck Association, which represents more than 1,000 trucking companies, and its Intermodal Council, which focuses on truckers' interests at the port, and urged them to advise drivers to stay away until the problem was resolved.

"We didn't think it was going to take days and days, but we really didn't know," Scher said.

When the green light came, impatient truckers close to the front of the line alerted others farther away.

"They spread the word fast," said Ways. "They came out of the woodwork."

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