By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun
5:35 PM EDT, April 8, 2014
The port of Baltimore handled more automobiles, cargo containers and wood pulp in 2013 than ever before, a record-setting performance despite continuing labor unrest on its public docks.
Solidifying its place as the nation's No. 1 port for automobile imports and exports, the Maryland Port Administration said Tuesday that it handled 749,100 cars and trucks in 2013, up from 652,000 in 2012. The increase was due in part to newly inked contracts with auto manufacturers, including a five-year deal with Mazda announced in August.
In all, the port's public marine terminals handled 9.6 million tons of cargo in 2013, matching 2012's record, but container cargo grew 1 percent to 6.4 million tons from 6.3 million tons in 2012. Wood pulp cargo increased 23 percent to 591,570 tons and also set a record. The previous record was set in 2011, with 515,433 tons.
Maryland port officials have targeted all three commodities as areas of growth for the port.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, in a statement, credited the success to "shrewd infrastructure investments, unique job-creating public-private partnerships, and long-term contracts with major international shipping companies."
The port of Baltimore signed a 50-year, $1.3 billion public-private partnership with Ports America Chesapeake in 2009 that allowed it to invest in major new infrastructure — including cranes to work the latest generation of massive container ships — and begin courting more international clientele.
Including Baltimore's private terminals, the port moved 30.3 million tons of international cargo across its docks in 2013, valued at more than $52 billion.
Baltimore ranks first among U.S. ports for handling automobiles, farm and construction machinery and imported forest products, sugar, aluminum and gypsum, and second for exported coal.
The port employs more than 14,600 people and is responsible for $3 billion in personal wages and salaries, and more than $300 million in annual state and local taxes, the MPA said.
Last year's success came despite a three-day work stoppage in October and labor unrest ever since, which has caused some companies to divert business elsewhere.
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