Former FMC commissioner Doyle to oversee Port of Baltimore

Former FMC commissioner Doyle to oversee Port of Baltimore

The Maryland Port Administration has named a new executive director who will take over in July overseeing the Port of Baltimore. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

William P. Doyle, a former federal maritime commissioner, will take over July 22 as head of the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), giving the Port of Baltimore new leadership as it works to capitalize on infrastructure investments and critical improvements to its intermodal network to attract more Asian cargo. 

In his new post, Doyle will team with key stakeholders — terminal operator Ports America Chesapeake, logistics real estate developer Tradepoint Atlantic, and Class I railroads CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway among them — to market the dockside and landside capabilities of the port, as well as the distribution opportunities in Maryland and the interior US using Baltimore as a gateway.

Doyle told JOC.com that his priority over the next 12 months is to talk to all the stakeholders about each of the business lines, including containers, ro-ro, and bulk.

“One of the reasons that makes the Port of Baltimore so great is the relationship between our public and private terminals. We’re not competing against each other. We are all one Port of Baltimore and that’s not the case with some other ports. I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know our private terminal partners,” he said. “I also intend to form a shippers (BCO) and warehousing roundtable where we can regularly communicate, discuss issues, and improve business practices that would benefit everyone.”

Doyle served two terms on the Federal Maritime Commission before leaving in 2018 and becoming CEO of Dredging Contractors of America. He previously served as chief of staff to the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA), a union of US Merchant Marines that lobbies in favor of upholding and protecting US interests in the Jones Act.

“Bill has experience with major infrastructure projects that will prove invaluable as the port continues to work with its private sector partners and the Baltimore community to deliver generational projects,” Greg Slater, Maryland Secretary of Transportation, said in a statement. “From global negotiations to working with Congress to fund critical dredging projects, Bill understands all the elements needed to propel the Port of Baltimore to the next level.”

Doyle succeeds James White, who stepped down as head of the MPA on Dec. 31, 2019, ending an 18-year tenure during which the Port of Baltimore became a major automotive gateway and the sixteenth busiest port in the US by container imports in 2019.

As Doyle prepares to take the helm, Baltimore has remained the only US port not to see a decline in volumes to and from Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession, despite closing the Seagirt Marine Terminal four times in March due to a decline in overall volumes.

According to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Markit, laden container imports from Asia into Baltimore ticked up 0.5 percent year over year between January and April, while laden exports to Asia jumped nearly 36 percent in the first quarter. Imports from Asia through Baltimore increased 4 percent year over year to 262,574 loaded TEU in 2019, making it the 10th-busiest port in the US by volume of imports from Asia.

The Port of Baltimore generates about 15,330 direct jobs and nearly $400 million annually in state and local tax revenues, according to the MPA.

Improvements underway

Doyle comes to Baltimore during a busy period in which Ports America Chesapeake, which operates the Seagirt Marine Terminal, is expanding the terminal’s berth to handle two 14,000 TEU vessels simultaneously. Four new post-Panamax cranes will arrive in March or April 2021 to handle the larger vessels, in addition to the four post-Panamax cranes that were commissioned in 2012. 

On the land side, the MPA has secured funding for a $466 million project to elevate parts of the Howard Street Tunnel, necessary to move double-stacked CSX trains between Baltimore and Chicago, a crucial component in the port's plan to improve intermodal service to the Midwest. Doyle will have to shepherd the project to completion after years of delays.

"We’ll need to keep the Howard Street tunnel project moving forward. That is a real game-changer. Baltimore must be able to double stack rail cars in and out of the port.” Doyle told JOC. “CSX is onboard and they’re a great partner. More rails cars mean more cargo and that means more business and jobs. We’re also very happy to now have Norfolk Southern on-dock at our Seagirt container terminal.”

He will also be responsible for managing a partnership formed with Tradepoint Atlantic, which is turning the former Bethlehem Steel manufacturing plant into a transportation hub, already home to distribution centers for Home Depot, Floor N Décor, Under Armour, and Amazon.

“Tradepoint has transformed the historic Sparrows Point shipyard and turned it into a 21st century huge economic driver. We want to help them succeed as much as possible,” Doyle said. “The Port of Baltimore is surrounded by a growing amount of warehousing and distribution centers. You see them right along the highways in Maryland and right up through central Pennsylvania and into New Jersey and New York.”

Contact Ari Ashe at ari.ashe@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @arijashe.