Tay Yoshitani, the new executive director of the port of Baltimore, said yesterday that he hopes to offer important connections with Far East steamship lines to help the port capture a bigger share of the world's fastest-growing market.
Mr. Yoshitani, now deputy executive director of the port of Los Angeles, was named to the port's highest job yesterday by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
The appointment ended a four-month search to replace Michael P. Angelos, the Maryland Port Administration's top official who resigned in March amid a federal investigation into possible inside stock trading.
For the past six years, Mr. Yoshitani, 48, has been responsible for port operations at Los Angeles, the country's second-largest port and its most profitable one, with revenues of $190 million and a net income of $80 million. In that post, he dealt extensively with shipping companies from the Far East, including several that Baltimore has unsuccessfully sought.
"I bring a strong relationship with all shipping companies and hope to leverage that for Baltimore," he said prior to a news conference announcing his appointment at the World Trade Center.
As a trade market, the Far East has exploded in recent years with governments easing trade restrictions as their own economies develop. Port officials here have long tried to lure more cargo, particularly from southern areas of Asia that can ship through the Suez Canal to the U.S. East Coast.
Until two years ago, with the arrival of China Ocean Shipping Co., Baltimore had no direct shipping service to the Far East.
The new director's salary was set at $124,000, plus a $6,000 performance bonus. That makes him the highest-paid state official, topping Governor Glendening's annual pay of $120,000.
In its nationwide search, one deterrent had been the $110,000 salary paid to Mr. Angelos. While higher than the average salary for port directors nationwide, it was significantly lower than those at the nation's larger ports. That also hampered attracting a candidate from private industry.
Mr. Yoshitani was not among the nearly 200 candidates who applied for the top port job. Instead, he was sought out by the 10-member selection committee. He is relatively unknown in the Baltimore area, but Adrian G. Teel, a former MPA executive director and member of the search committee, described him as "highly respected in the shipping industry."
"He's coming in with a really good network and important contacts with key industry leaders," Mr. Teel said.
Mr. Yoshitani said yesterday that he was initially skeptical about the job because Baltimore is a relatively small port -- the 14th biggest in the U.S. -- in comparison to Los Angeles.
"But the more I looked, the more excited I got," he said. "This place has a lot of potential."
He said the port's modern facilities were particularly impressive. "They're the result of a lot of vision and very courageous decisions in terms of investment," Mr. Yoshitani said. "Marketing them has to be an important agenda."
He also cited the close working relationship at the port of Baltimore between business, labor and government leaders that has led to the port's rebound in recent years. That mood, however, came only after years of strife and disharmony resulted in a significant loss of business to other ports.
In Los Angeles, Mr. Yoshitani has negotiated long-term agreements with major container carriers as well as other carriers, including passenger ships. He also created the Los Angeles Export Terminal, a consortium of 36 companies to build a $120 million dry bulk facility.
In addition, he worked in the private sector for a dozen years, holding various executive-level positions in real estate, office products and food processing companies.
He received a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a master's degree in business from Harvard Business School. He is married and has three young children.