By Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley
Today, a very visible sign of progress sailed under the Bay and Key bridges and on into the Port of Baltimore. Four huge cranes have arrived to complete the new 50-foot berth at the Port of Baltimore. The landside portion of the new berth was completed earlier this year. The four super-sized cranes will now be off-loaded from the ship over the next ten days. They will be assembled in place during the summer with the entire berth becoming operational in September of this year.
The creation of this new, deep-water berth is vitally important to the future of the Port of Baltimore. The Panama Canal is being widened and when construction is complete in 2014, larger ships carrying goods from Asia and around the world will be able to pass through the Canal to the U.S. East Coast. Baltimore will be one of only two ports on the U.S. East Coast with a 50-foot facility, something that will be critical to maintaining our strong position in the highly-competitive shipping industry.
All this was made possible as a result of our innovative, award-winning public-private partnership with Ports America Chesapeake. In 2009, we agreed to a long term lease with Ports America where they would assume day to day operation of Seagirt Marine Terminal and pay for the hundreds of millions in capital investments that are needed in the near term and over the length of the 50-year agreement. The state retains ownership of Seagirt and benefits from financial terms that are beneficial to both partners. Working together, our collective goal is to grow business at the Port of Baltimore. More business means more stability for the more than 14,000 men and women who depend on the Port for good family supporting jobs.
This agreement is already producing dividends, even before the new berth is operational. Earlier this year, Hapag Lloyd, one of the top 5 container companies in the world, began service to Baltimore. The Port of Baltimore is now the first US port of call for Hapag’s northern Europe to North America service. We likely would not have secured the Hapag business without the new berth. Today, the Port of Baltimore is now served by three of the top 5 container shipping companies in the world.
Thanks in part to our partnership with Ports America and the new 50-foot berth, the future is bright at the Port of Baltimore.
Martin O'Malley is the Governor of Maryland. He writes a regular blog for his official website.