Car terminal favored, opposed MPA wants Masonville, but two operators doubt it's warranted; On the waterfront


Two vehicle terminal operators and the Maryland Port Administration presented vastly different scenarios yesterday before a joint General Assembly committee on the viability of a proposed state-funded automobile terminal.

While Hobelmann Port Services Inc. and Premiere Automotive Services Inc. questioned whether the automobile market is robust enough to support a 50-acre, $18.6 million terminal at the port of Baltimore, the MPA insisted in a hearing before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and the House Committee on Appropriations that it is.

jTC "We wouldn't place ourselves in the awkward position of having a disagreement with two existing customers unless we had confidence that there is growth potential in the market," said John D. Porcari, deputy secretary of the state Department of Transportation.

The MPA proposes to construct the terminal on a site known as Masonville on the south side of the Patapsco River across from Fort McHenry to accommodate Baltimore's automobile market, which has grown 10 percent annually over seven years and has " outgrown the port's capacity, said David Winstead, secretary of the state Department of Transportation.

Last year, the port leapfrogged over Jacksonville, Fla., to become the second largest automobile cargo port on the East Coast behind New York.

Existing automobile customers such as Ford and Jaguar are running out of space, and potential customers such as Nissan, Hyundai and Volkswagen have passed on the port because of the crunch, he said.

Hobelmann and Premiere -- which, combined, represent 80 percent of the volume of automotive cargo at the port -- presented a three-pronged opposition to the proposed terminal.

They said current capacity is underutilized; there is no credible evidence of there being new business waiting to come to the port; and that the state would effectively be subsidizing another company, giving it an unfair advantage.

Hobelmann owns two marine terminals -- Chesapeake and Atlantic -- that handle the export and import of automobiles. It also leases space at the state-owned Dundalk Marine Terminal for car processing.

Premier handles heavy agricultural and construction equipment such as tractors and bulldozers at its 20-acre site in Fairfield.

Th MPA has reached an agreement with ATC Logistics Inc, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that processes cars in Mexico, lease the terminal with a guaranteed volume of business.

"We are apprehensive about the placement in the market of 50 acres right next to our 50 acres," said Brendan O'Mally, Hobelmann's chief executive. "It will drive down prices and imperil private firms."

Should the joint committee approve the proposal, it would then be considered by the Board of Public Works.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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