Six-year extension with leading international shipping company will protect hundreds of Maryland jobs

Governor Martin O’Malley joined officials of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) to sign a six-year extension of the current contract between the Port of Baltimore and the Geneva-based international container shipping giant. The deal maintains 628 direct jobs and the continued shipment of MSC containerized cargo through the Port of Baltimore.

“In these difficult economic times, I am very pleased to receive an extended commitment from one of the top container shipping companies in the world,” said Governor O’Malley. “This extension keeps good-paying, family-supporting jobs at the economic engine that is the Port of Baltimore. Maryland is proud to be signing the third long-term contract in a year when many ports are facing much harder times.”

The new agreement extends the current contract with MSC, the Port’s top container shipping company, to December 31, 2014. The extension requires MSC to bring a minimum of 100,000 containers annually to the Port – three times the amount the original 10-year contract required.

“We are very happy to secure MSC, our top container customer, for another six years,” said Maryland Port Administration (MPA) Executive Director James J. White. “This extension amends the original contract and requires MSC to bring more business to this Port for the next several years.”

In addition to maintaining the 628 jobs, the agreement also will retain about $25 million in wages and salaries and $14 million in state and local taxes as a result of keeping MSC at the Port of Baltimore.

MSC began a weekly service to Baltimore in 1988. In 1988, about 4,500 containers were brought to the Port of Baltimore on MSC vessels. By 2008, that number increased 30 fold to more than 136,000 containers. MSC also was the first container shipping company to work out of the Seagirt Marine Terminal after it opened in 1990.

“At this time of great uncertainty in the global economy it’s refreshing that the relationship between Mediterranean Shipping Company and the Maryland Port Administration is stable and based on mutual respect and cooperation,” said Captain Nicola Arena, chairman of the board and chief executive officer for MSC. “We look forward to many more years at the Port of Baltimore.”

In addition to the MSC contract, the Port of Baltimore has signed long-term, 10-year contracts with Taiwan-based container company Evergreen Marine Corporation and Finland-based paper manufacturer UPM within the last year. Earlier this week, the Port also kicked off the first of its record 79 cruises in 2009, including the first year-round cruising program.