It is 9 p.m. on a cold January night. Capt. Al Watts climbs the rope rungs of a ladder to board the cargo ship that sits in the harbor loaded with 5,000 cars that range from Chryslers to Mercedes. Watts, who has 38 years of experience in nautical navigation, takes command on the bridge of the Equuleus Leader docked at the pier in Seagirt East Channel. The bow thrusters churn beneath the shadowy water, awakening the still harbor with reverberations. "Dropping lines, Dundalk 2," Watts says into the radio, alerting all vessels in the harbor that the ship is getting underway. He has been shuttled from shore to ship in a small boat in order to take command, temporarily, and turn the giant vessel 180 degrees in the tricky 1,600-foot-wide basin, steering it into the main channel.