2 lines to bring more ships to Baltimore


An article in yesterday's Business section about Wallenius Lines incorrectly stated the country where it is based. Wallenius is a Swedish steamship line, based in Stockholm.

The Sun regrets the error.

In a double boost for the port, two steamship lines have announced plans to increase the number of their ships calling in Baltimore.

Wallenius Lines, a Norwegian company that specializes in transporting autos and other cargo that can be driven aboard, said Tuesday that it is expanding its service to Northern Europe by adding two ships to the four now plying that trade route.

With about 91 ship calls in Baltimore a year, the line is one of the most important carriers in the port. The additional ships are expected to mean about 20 to 30 additional vessel calls a year, an increase of as much as one-third over current levels.

Lykes Bros. Steamship Co. Inc., a U.S.-flag carrier based in New Orleans, announced yesterday that service between Baltimore and the Middle East will begin early next month. The line expects to use one ship on the new route, which will call at Baltimore about once every six weeks.

The Lykes service is expected to help Baltimore capture more military cargo, most of which has been bypassing Baltimore because of the lack of U.S.-flag vessels that call on Baltimore.

"It's great to see old friends like Lykes and Wallenius adding to our services," Brendan W. O'Malley, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, said yesterday.

The announcement by two lines in as many days of increased service in Baltimore could be an indication of better days ahead for the port, Mr. O'Malley said.

An improved labor climate has given Baltimore "relative tranquillity to grow in," he said.

Baltimore's Seagirt Marine Terminal, which opened last fall, along with the rebuilding of Kuwait after the Persian Gulf war, could produce cargo growth for the port, Mr. O'Malley said.

Wallenius' decision to add two ships to its trans-Atlantic service is the result of a shift in marketing strategy. The line has been dependent on transporting cars but intends to attract bigger and more lucrative cargo such as boats, farm equipment, machinery, buses and turbines.

Raymond P. Ebeling, executive vice president at Wallenius, said he expects Baltimore to be a good port for such cargo because of its proximity to the industrial areas where much of that kind of cargo is produced.

In recent years, that advantage has become less important to many lines that have steered cargo to ports closer to the open ocean.

Mr. Ebeling said the port's proximity to the factories that produce the goods makes it more economical to route such cargo through Baltimore.

Baltimore, he said, still enjoys an "inherent geographic advantage" for the kind of cargo his company is trying to attract.

Mr. O'Malley said pleasure boats, many of which are constructed on the Eastern Shore, are expected to be an important part of the traffic Wallenius expects to handle in Baltimore.

The increase in Lykes' service is expected to help Baltimore regain some of the military cargo that has moved away from Baltimore to ports such as New York and Hampton Roads, Va.

The federal government operates two huge military depots in the Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania -- one in New Cumberland and the other in Mechanicsburg.

Those depots are 80 to 90 miles from Baltimore, less than half the distance to New York or Hampton Roads. In years past, when more U.S.-flag carriers called in Baltimore, much of the military cargo from those depots flowed through Baltimore.

The military contracts with U.S.-flag carriers to transport supplies to the Middle East, but selection of ports is left up the lines. The paucity of service by U.S.-flag carriers in Baltimore means that most of the cargo ends up going to the ports where those lines do call.

The new Lykes service should allow Baltimore to capture some of that traffic.

"It's going to flow on this ship," said Mr. O'Malley, who hopes that Lykes will decide eventually to increase the frequency of its service from Baltimore to capture more of that traffic.

The Lykes ship will be a combination vessel capable of carrying both containers and cargo that can be driven aboard. The line intends to compete for commercial as well as military traffic.

Mr. O'Malley said he did not know how much cargo the new Lykes service would mean for the port.

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