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Container shipping company Hapag-Lloyd to start service to Baltimore

The fifth-largest container shipping company in the world is beginning a weekly container service to the Port of Baltimore that could create nearly 600 new jobs for Maryland.

German company Hapag-Lloyd is expected to bring up to 30,000 containers through the port annually, with its first shipment scheduled to arrive Wednesday.

Hapag-Lloyd has made the Port of Baltimore the first U.S. port of call for the weekly service, which originates from northern Europe, meaning that the shipments will arrive in Baltimore before any other American port. More cargo is usually offloaded at first ports of call than at remaining ports along a ship’s route.

“It’s always a great day when we have a new company with new jobs,” Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat representing Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District, said at a Friday news conference at the port.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley said that the new service will create 255 direct jobs at the port, and could potentially create 600 new jobs altogether.

With the addition of Hapag-Lloyd, the Port of Baltimore will have three of the world’s top five container carriers shipping there.

“This new call at the Port of Baltimore offers importers in Baltimore and the surrounding catchment area a direct call with a fast transit time of nine days from Germany,” Hapag-Lloyd Senior Vice President Stuart Rattray said in a statement.

Gov. Martin O’Malley pointed to the port’s new 50-foot berth as one of the reasons Hapag-Lloyd chose to come to Baltimore.

“Just two years ago, we broke ground on the Port’s new 50-foot container berth to capture the new business from the Panama Canal expansion, and Maryland already is seeing the economic payoff,” the governor said in a statement.

The Maryland Port Administration said the berth is expected to be finished in August, two years ahead of schedule.

When it is completed, Baltimore and Norfolk, Va., will have the only two ports on the East Coast with 50-foot channels and 50-foot berths.

The berth is being constructed by Ports America Chesapeake, which agreed to take on the project as part of its partnership with the MPA that was announced in 2009.

Hapag-Lloyd has been in business for 165 years, and transports 5 million containers annually, according to its website.