Port is hub for both exports and importsBy Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTFor both exports and imports of farm equipment and related roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) cargoes, the Port of Baltimore is providing Moline, IL-based Deere & Co. an ideal maritime transportation hub. The fact that the four ro/ro lines on which John Deere primarily relies operate out of Baltimore port facilities is but one reason why David Panjwani, Deere’s manager of global transportation, is pleased to call Baltimore his company’s leading strategic port. Other reasons include improved rail service from Deere’s Midwest manufacturing centers, experienced labor on Baltimore docks and strong Maryland Port Administration (MPA) commitment to serving ro/ro customers. “We really enjoy the fact that the major players all call Baltimore,” said Panjwani, who noted that Deere has focused over the past five or six years on skewing the lion’s share of its export and import activity to Baltimore rather than spreading it among a half-dozen East Coast ports. Key services used by Deere through Baltimore include those of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines, Atlantic Container Line (ACL), HUAL and Atlantic Ro-Ro Carriers Inc. (ARC). ARC specializes in service to St. Petersburg, Russia, while the other three carriers have broader reaches. Deere also occasionally utilizes “K” Line and Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), according to Panjwani. Deere has benefited from economies of scale and from the familiarity that Mid-Atlantic Terminal (MAT) labor at the Port of Baltimore’s Dundalk Marine Terminal has with handling the company’s agricultural and construction equipment, including in such critical areas as lashing and safety, Panjwani said. A total of nearly 10,000 Deere units a year now roll through Baltimore, according to Panjwani. They include exported agricultural units, such as tractors, cotton pickers and backhoes, as well as imports of agricultural tractors and combines from John Deere’s European factories and construction equipment, such as dump trucks and excavators. Export destinations are led by Australia and Western Europe, followed by project moves to Turkmenistan, Kazakstan and Russia, as well as South America (primarily Brazil) and China, Panjwani noted. Imports include tractors made in Mannheim, Germany, and combines and telehandlers made in Zweibrucken, Germany. An increasing amount of the export cargo is moving into the Port of Baltimore by rail as opposed to truck, according to Panjwani. The Union Pacific Railroad takes tractors from Deere’s plant in Waterloo, Iowa, combines from its facility in East Moline, IL, and cotton pickers from its factory in Des Moines, Iowa. The UP hands the cargo off to the Norfolk Southern for much of the rail trek to Baltimore. “We certainly enjoy the fact that we have been able to have a significant modal shift on the inland from truck to rail,” Panjwani said. Panjwani also noted the proactive care that Lou LoBianco, the MPA’s manager for breakbulk, bulk and ro/ro sales, shows in servicing the Deere account, including coming to Moline at least quarterly and leading quality assurance discussions with Deere officials and other shippers of similar equipment. LoBianco described Panjwani as, “A very forthright and demanding individual” who maintains tight control over each segment of Deere equipment moves. “We like ro/ro cargo” The port’s total quality program, which over the past three years has been extended to heavy equipment from its automobile-oriented origin, brings together representatives of labor, steamship lines, railroads, shippers, the port and others to constructively critique each other and resolve concerns, LoBianco said. “It says everybody cares,” he said. Of the railroad link for Deere, LoBianco said, “Rail has been absolutely outstanding. Norfolk Southern has made significant improvements in rail clearances and has orchestrated a great number of unit trains originating in Chicago.” The active participation of Deere officials in the proce