By Todd Karpovich | Photography by Donovan Eaton Photography
Ports America Chesapeake is always looking to expand its capabilities, flexibility and services for clients.
The company’s strategic position at the Port of Baltimore made it a prime place to launch Ports America Packaging in November 2008. That area of business was a boon to the company’s general cargo, auto, boat, steel and container operations.
The services offered by Ports America Packaging include crating, transportation coordination, warehousing and storage as well as container operations at the facility at Dundalk Marine Terminal, which has easy access to rail and motor carriers.
Mike Harro, Manager of Ports America Packaging, said the company filled a void by providing these valuable services to clients. Harro is supported by customer service representatives Donna Pawlikowski and Dana Budd. The labor team for Ports America Packaging is supplied through the ILA locals 333 and 953.
“Ports America Packaging has been providing value-added services at the Dundalk Marine Terminal since 2008,” said Harro. “Our ability to provide crating, boxing and container transfer operations onsite is a cost-saving service for our customers who may otherwise face permitting and additional inland costs to receive their cargo.”
Ports America Packaging provides a full range of specialized on-dock packing and shipping services for international breakbulk, containerized or project freight between the Port of Baltimore and any maritime destination in the world.
It also carries on a long-storied tradition at the Port of Baltimore with its parent company, Ports America Chesapeake, which has run the operations at Dundalk Marine Terminal since 1966. The company has also been the caretaker of Seagirt Marine Terminal since the 200-acre facility opened in 1990.
Under a public-private partnership agreement signed by the Port and Ports America Chesapeake in 2010, a 50-foot-deep draft berth was constructed at Seagirt. The Port is one of only a few on the East Coast with a channel that is deep enough to accommodate the massive container vessels that come through the Panama Canal.
Since the 2010 agreement, Ports America has upgraded its operations at the Port of Baltimore, which has been a catalyst for new business.
Last year, Seagirt Marine Terminal installed six new yard cranes to help relieve the traffic congestion that comes with the record-setting amount of cargo that passes through the Port. The 325,500-pound rubber-tired gantry cranes, which cost $12 million, are used to move and stack containers on the docks.
Those gantry cranes were added to a fleet of 16 others that were already in service. The additional infrastructure helps workers at the Port to more efficiently expedite cargo and allows trucking companies to move through the Port more quickly, which is cost-effective.
Earlier this year, Maryland lawmakers secured a $6.6 million federal grant to build an additional 50-foot-deep berth to accommodate more of the world’s largest container ships. The overall cost for deepening the berth will be $32.7 million. In addition to the federal money, the state has awarded $7.8 million toward the project, and Ports America Chesapeake agreed to supply another $18.4 million.
Ports America Packaging also has an effective partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA). This relationship has been key to the ongoing success of both entities.
“We work closely with the MDOT MPA Operations and Commercial teams to ensure a steady stream of high-value cargo continues to transit through the Port of Baltimore,” Harro said. “The MDOT MPA’s commitment and ability to work seamlessly with state and federal agencies and the private sector are a major part of our success.”
Ports America Packaging keeps open communication channels with its clients to improve their services. This has been vital to retaining valued customers and maintaining the company’s overall success.
“The feedback we receive from our customers is the best source of information and the foundation of our ongoing pursuit of excellence,” Harro said. “Our performance and ability to meet customer expectations can only improve when we know what is working and what is not, with the latter being the greatest value to improving.
“We use customer feedback to enhance our processes for moving containers to and from Seagirt Marine Terminal, which is critical for timely delivery of cargo to the customer. We have implemented gate cameras and clerking priority lists to ensure we meet expectations.”
As the maritime industry continues to evolve, Ports America Packaging has adapted to the changes. This is a strategy that is vital to long-term success. Harro closely monitors these changes in the industry and makes the necessary adjustments.
“We have seen an increase in the use of flat racks to ship OOG (out-of-gauge) project cargo on container ships,” Harro said. “Traditionally, this freight would ship on breakbulk vessels, but we have seen a slight shift for projects where the dimensions of the cargo are better served via container ships on flat racks.”
AT A GLANCE
Ports America Packaging
Manager: Mike Harro
Location: Dundalk Marine Terminal
Labor Team: ILA locals 333 and 953
Focus: Packaging, crating, transportation coordination, warehousing, storage and container operations