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Mazda signs exclusive, five-year deal with Port of Baltimore

Mazda Motor of America Inc. plans to park its Northeast imports at the Port of Baltimore for the next five years, the company and state officials announced Tuesday.

The Port of Baltimore ranked 11th in the nation last year, moving almost 37 million tons of cargo through its various terminals.

The Japanese auto maker plans to import 65,000 cars a year as part of the exclusive long-term deal with Amports Inc., creating 160 jobs at the Chesapeake Auto Terminal in Fairfield.

The deal wrests away cars from Port Newark in New Jersey, through which Mazda previously moved its vehicles.

In a statement, Mazda North American Operations Vice President Robert Davis said the company was “honored to call the Port of Baltimore its new home for all of its vehicle imports in the Northeast.”

“The decision for Mazda to move ports makes sense for our business, and we look forward to growing this relationship,” Davis said.

A Maryland Port Administration spokesman said the state did not offer any subsidy to lure Mazda to Maryland. Amports did not respond to a request for comment.

Mazda plans use the port as its Northeast hub, moving all of its MX-5 Miata, Mazda 2, Mazda 6 and its CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs across docks at the Port of Baltimore.

The company joins an already long list of auto manufacturers making their home at the Port of Baltimore, including Fiat, which exclusively ships its 500L model to the port. Mercedes-Benz, the port’s largest automobile importer, stops at just two East Coast ports: Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore.

Between its state and privately owned docks, the Port of Baltimore is first among U.S. ports for moving automobiles, handling 652,000 last year. In the first six months of 2013, auto imports were up about 9 percent over the same period last year.

“Thousands of good-paying, family-supporting jobs are created by our very active and busy port,” Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary James T. “Jim” Smith Jr. said in a statement.

Almost 37 million tons of cargo went through the port last year, 11th in the nation. The value of that cargo was calculated at $54 billion, ninth-most in the nation.

Baltimore is the top port among 360 in the United States for moving cars and light trucks, farm and construction machinery, imported forest products, imported sugar, imported aluminum and imported gypsum. The port is second for export coal and imported iron ore.

Nearly 15,000 people work at the port, and the Maryland Port Administration estimates about 108,000 jobs are linked to activity on the docks.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., in a statement called the port “a bellwether for our nation’s economic health” and a sign of the “growing strength of our nation’s manufacturing base and the resilience of our economy.”