Letters To The Editor


August 20, 2008

Meeting challenges that face the port

The Sun's editorial "Double port trouble" (Aug. 7) was both insightful and interesting. But it may be appropriate to consider the rather bigger picture.

Baltimore's port extends from the Inner Harbor through Fairfield and Dundalk to Sparrows Point and is made up of a partnership of state-run and privately operated terminals.

By some estimates, between 35 percent and 40 percent of the cargo that goes through the port is handled by the private sector.

In the private sector, coal exports that go through Canton and Curtis Bay, for instance, are at the highest level for years, and the general stevedores at Lazaretto and Locust Point are enjoying unprecedented growth in the export business - all thanks to the fall in the value of the dollar.

The public sector terminals are enjoying their share of success as well. The Dundalk Marine Terminal is busy as automobile, farm and construction equipment is in demand worldwide.

Container traffic increased by 4 percent in 2007, while West Coast ports and other East Coast ports are down in volume this year.

The question of double-stack rail service remains a thorny but not insurmountable issue.

Rail is and will remain important, but not all cargo that goes through the port is in containers or can be carried by rail.

Additionally, with fuel prices likely to remain relatively high for the foreseeable future, and trucking charges calculated on a per-mile basis, Baltimore - as the closest East Coast port to major Midwest markets - is set for a dynamic future.

The port's major challenge over the next decade will be to find enough land adjacent to deep-water access to serve the expected increase in business when the Panama Canal expansion program scheduled to be completed in 2014 is finished and even larger ships from the Pacific Rim countries will be able to call directly in Baltimore.

Rupert Denney, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the Baltimore Port Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for the port of Baltimore.

In response to The Sun's editorial "Double port trouble" (Aug. 7), I would note that we need to make all investments possible for the port of Baltimore's future. The port is critical to the Mid-Atlantic region and tremendously important to the region's economy.

Railroads are a crucial mode of transportation for the port, especially today, as highway congestion in the region worsens. I support increasing freight railroad capacity at the port.

According to The Sun's editorial, the port's capacity to double-stack freight containers on rail cars is limited because of aging tunnel infrastructure. But there is hope.

There is legislation before Congress, the Freight Railroad Infrastructure Capacity Expansion Act, that could help spur infrastructure expansion by providing tax credits for projects that increase capacity.

Perhaps this bill could help us meet some of the port's challenges.

Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, Baltimore

The writer is a member of the City Council.

'Surge' didn't work, war won't be won

Three items attracted my attention in Tuesday's Sun.

First, I read the list of 22 members of the U.S. armed forces recently killed in Iraq ("Killed in Iraq," Aug. 19). The total U.S. military dead in the Iraq war is now at least 4,143.

Then I read The Sun's article "Iraqi officials disarm Sunnis" (Aug. 19), which reports that the government of Iraq does not trust forces such as the Awakening Councils, which are being paid by the U.S. military to fight al-Qaida in Iraq.

Finally, I read Larry Smith's column "When should we leave Iraq? Not just yet" (Commentary, Aug. 19), which claims, "Fortunately for all of us, the 'surge' in Iraq worked."

That is a ridiculous and bombastic statement. The surge did not work for those dead service members listed in The Sun. It did not work for all of the Iraqi civilians living under the boot-heel of occupation.

The invasion of Iraq was based on a multitude of lies and was illegal. The occupation is no less illegal.

The war will never be won.

War is terror.

Let's end this foreign policy disaster as quickly as possible, and get the troops out so that the people of the Middle East, with the assistance of the United Nations, can work toward building some semblance of a functional Iraqi state.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

Iraqi councils curbed carnage

Larry Smith opens his column "When should we leave Iraq? Not just yet" (Commentary, Aug. 19) by stating, "Fortunately for all of us, the 'surge' in Iraq worked." He doesn't feel the slightest need to prove his case - and who can blame him, given that most Americans have apparently accepted this claim as fact?

But the truth is that we don't know how well the "surge" worked.

While violence in Iraq has decreased, many experts point instead to the work of the Awakening Councils, the united groups of Sunni villagers who rose up against al-Qaida beginning in early 2007, as an explanation for the reduction in violence.

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