By ALEKSANDRA ROBINSON
BALTIMORE (Nov. 21, 2009) - A new long-term partnership between the Port of Baltimore and the largest terminal operator in the country, Ports America, will bring 5,700 jobs and $15.7 million in annual revenue for Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Friday.
The long-term lease of Seagirt Marine Terminal leaves ownership of the facility in the hands of the state and the day-to-day management of the terminal to Ports America Chesapeake.
"This is the beginning of a partnership between the Port of Baltimore and Ports America," O'Malley said, standing on the container crane area at the water's edge. For the announcement, a row of longshoremen stood behind him in their neon vests and hard hats. "This deal is all about job creation in Maryland."
Of the 5,700 jobs expected to be created, 2,700 will be permanent jobs and 3,000 will be construction jobs. In 2008, the Port of Baltimore was No. 12 in the nation for total dollar value of cargo and 14th in total foreign cargo tonnage out of about 360 U.S. ports.
Secretary of Transportation Beverly Swaim-Staley said the port is one of the most important economic engines in the state and that this deal will only strengthen the port's money-making power. There are 16,500 jobs associated with the port in the state, and this partnership will only create more.
"In the 300-year history of the port we have had many special events, but I think we can argue this is one of the most important," she said.
The construction jobs will come as part of the agreement that requires Ports America to build a new 50-foot berth at Seagirt to accommodate larger ship traffic as the Panama Canal expansion project ends in 2014. The new berth will make Maryland more effective at luring ship traffic away from Norfolk, Va., and up the Chesapeake Bay.
"We are going to be able to invest now in that new berth to create jobs today," O'Malley said. "And to do it now. Not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now—but to create jobs now."
Ports America Chesapeake Chairman Christopher Lee said he believes Baltimore gets the cargo ships it does from Norfolk, despite being a 10-hour steam up the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia, because of the efficiency and work ethic of port staff.
"A port is all about the people who make it work," he said.
Donald Fry of the Maryland Port Commission said the partnership of public and private entities will bring tax dollars into the state as well as jobs.
"Today signifies the state's willingness to bring public and private sectors together," Fry said. "This port is good for business and it's good for government."
Helen Delich Bentley, former congresswoman and namesake of the port, was in the audience at the announcement. A long-term advocate for the port, Bentley said this deal garnered her seal of approval.
"This is a very vital step for Baltimore," Bentley said. "Now we're going to do it and it's going to be under top management and it's going to be a great deal."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.