Story and photography by Kathy Bergren Smith
When Ingrid Londoño came to Baltimore some eight years ago, she had little experience with the world of international shipping, but it didn’t take her long to become fascinated. She began working for a shipping line and soon found her way to a “watch-stander” position at the Baltimore Maritime Exchange (BME). It was here that she found her home and has taken the helm as General Manager.
“I fell in love with the history of the Maritime Exchange, and I love being part of the Port community,” said Londoño.
In the 18th century, the watch-stander stood on Federal Hill with a telescope and a set of flags to signal the approach of ships into Baltimore Harbor. Today, the watch-stander monitors arriving ships as they enter the Chesapeake at Cape Henry or Chesapeake City and follows their progress into the Port in real time on a computer. The nonprofit BME serves as an information clearinghouse for its members, who include everyone who needs to know when and where a ship is in the Port of Baltimore. The nearly 60 members represent every aspect of the Port community, from the tugboats and the line handlers to the suppliers, government agents and pilots.
The BME works very closely with the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDT MPA) on several fronts to keep operations, such as pier assignments, up to date, and keep stakeholders in the loop. This close working relationship between staff at the MDOT MPA and the BME is beneficial to everyone in the Port community, according to Lodoño.
Londoño came to Baltimore from a job managing a large call center. She appreciated the camaraderie of the small team at the BME as they worked for the larger mission of enhancing the efficiency of the Port of Baltimore. She, along with her colleague and friend Brittany Mills, worked under the tutelage of David Stambaugh, who spent 40 years with the BME.
“I was very fortunate to have a good team in Ingrid and Brittany, and it made it possible for me to think about retiring,” said Stambaugh. He was pleased that between the two, all aspects of the BME would be covered.
“Those were some big shoes to fill,” Londoño said of taking Stambaugh’s place. But Stambaugh has heard many compliments from members on the seamless transition. “She understands that continuity is the keystone of the exchange; that is what people rely upon,” he said.
Londoño has begun to make her own mark at the BME. She developed and continues to tweak a database to log the arrivals and departures in the Port without the time-consuming practice of filling in paper cards. She is also passionate about getting input from members regarding improvements that could help BME serve the community better.
Londoño is challenging herself in her new role as General Manager, which requires her to work closely with all the BME partners and be the organization’s public face as she builds relationships with maritime exchanges in other ports. Her natural reserve is giving way to a more outgoing personality, she said:
“I am taking up mountain biking for the first time. It is hard, but I am trying to be bold!”
Meanwhile, Londoño, a native of Colombia, has found support for all of her endeavors, and she has found her home in the Port of Baltimore. Her respect for the long history of the BME gives her a sense of being part of something meaningful. “The people who work in the Port are committed people, who are willing to work whenever required to keep the Port running, and they count on the Baltimore Maritime Exchange,” said Londoño. “These are strong relationships. This is not an ‘industry’ — this is a community.”