Cargo handled at state-owned terminals rose more than 3 percent during the first quarter this year, continuing a steady growth in business at the port of Baltimore.
General cargo climbed to 1,315,675 tons, up 41,709 tons over the same period last year, according to figures released yesterday by the Maryland Port Administration (MPA).
The overall increase was attributed largely to a growth in container tonnage and break bulk cargo, such as wood pulp. In March alone, cargo rose by 500,000 tons at the state's five public terminals, the largest year-to-year monthly increase in several years, port officials said.
The increased container volume -- seen largely at Dundalk Marine Terminal -- helped offset a continued decline in steel exports and automobile imports, which has been experienced by most East Coast ports.
The latest figures showed the third straight quarter of growth at the port, which had steadily lost cargo for a half-dozen years prior to the turnaround in mid-1992. During the past year, several major shipping lines have expanded service through Baltimore and others have begun calling.
"We're seeing the results of all the new service coming to Baltimore," said Ray C. Feldmann, spokesman for the MPA, which owns and operates the public terminals.
Overall, imports for the first quarter rose 10.3 percent, to 697,934 tons, compared to 633,044 tons in the first three months of 1992. Exports, however, dropped 3.6 percent for the first three months, from 640,922 to 617,741 tons, reflecting a continued decline in demand worldwide for U.S. steel.
In addition to the 43 percent drop in steel exports, the port also handled 16 percent less automobile cargo. The 62 percent drop in Toyota imports at the Fairfield terminal, however, was offset slightly by the port receiving Jaguar automobiles for the first time.
Baltimore is the second-largest U.S. port for importing cars, behind Los Angeles.
The port agency statistics do not include traffic at private facilities, such as coal piers and grain elevators. For the first quarter of this year, business declined slightly at the coal piers, according to the MPA.
Also yesterday, the MPA released figures showing that its earnings had tripled for the first three quarters of fiscal year 1993, which ends June 30. The MPA recorded net operating income of $1.9 million for the nine months, compared with $608,000 for the same period in 1992. Prior to the 1992 fiscal year, the agency had lost money for three consecutive years.