NOL BARGE SERVICE TO BALTIMORE TO END

NOL BARGE SERVICE TO BALTIMORE TO END

Neptune Orient Lines is ending its barge service to the Port of Baltimore and instead will use the Virginia Port Authority's inland rail and truck terminal at Front Royal, Va.

The announcement late last week was another blow for Baltimore in its competition with the Port of Hampton Roads for lines and market share. Baltimore officials feared that other barge services might also flee the port.For the Virginia authority, the development was a boon that will nearly double the number of cargo containers the Virginia Inland Port will handle a month. The terminal has struggled to meet the high expections of Virginia officials after it opened last year.

Joe Dorto, general manager of Virginia International Terminals Inc., which operates the inland facility, reported last week that about 800 containers a month currently move through the terminal. He noted the inland port has lost money, but officials have not revealed how much.

Neptune Orient might move 700 containers a month through the inland terminal, according to an estimate.

Edwin Hale, president of Hale Container Line, said Neptune Orient decided to drop out of the partnership that charters his barge service between Baltimore and Norfolk, Va.

He said it was unclear whether the other members, Orient Overseas Container Line and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., will remain in the partnership.

According to reports, if those two lines decide to move their cargo from Norfolk to Baltimore by truck, or use the Virginia inland terminal, it could mean the loss of about 300,000 tons of cargo a year at Baltimore.

Mr. Hale said his business might lose in excess of $1 million.