- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

BALTIMORE — Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named a veteran of the maritime industry yesterday as chief executive of the Port of Baltimore and said the high-profile appointment proves his commitment to the state’s critical shipping industry.

F. Brooks Royster III, who has 33 years of experience in port management and previously ran the largest container terminal at the Port of Miami, will take over the Baltimore port June 1.

The port generates $1.5 billion in annual revenue and employs more than 16,000 workers.

“There are a lot of smiles here today because we are at the end of a long journey, a difficult journey,” Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, told those gathered on a dock of the Dundalk Marine Terminal.

Mr. Royster, 54, was hired in a fast-paced national search after James J. White resigned in late February. He complained that state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan meddled in port business and that the Ehrlich administration replaced seasoned port officials with unqualified workers.

Critics said the mismanagement was typified by the hiring of Greg Maddalone, a 29-year-old former staffer in Mr. Ehrlich’s congressional office whose only other prior work experience was as a professional ice dancer. Mr. Maddalone went to work at the port as a legislative aide making $74,000 a year.

Mr. Ehrlich’s detractors in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly used the port turmoil to help justify an investigation into whether the governor manipulated the patronage system to get rid of state employees deemed insufficiently loyal to the administration. The Democratic leadership is expected to decide within the next two weeks whether to take up the probe.

“For the relatively few, and there are only a few, who wanted to beat up on the administration, that’s old news as of today,” Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday.

Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Royster want to attract more container-ship and cruise-ship business. Baltimore ranks among the top U.S. ports for automobiles and farm-machinery cargo — called “ro-ro cargo” because it rolls on and off ships.

Mr. Royster said he wants to continue the growth the port has experienced in the last decade.

“I feel very fortunate to be selected,” he said. “What a great opportunity — just a remarkable opportunity.”

Mr. Royster is a native of Gulfport, Miss. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of South Alabama and graduated from the Tulane Institute for Port and Terminal Operations in New Orleans. He has held several senior management positions with maritime companies in the Southern United States and was the chief operating officer for the Mississippi State Port Authority.

Members of the port business community said Mr. Royster’s appointment was a promising development.

“I think it is just a matter of time before things quiet down,” said Michael A. Pirisino, president of Maryland Line Handling, a mooring service. “How [Mr. Royster] is accepted by the port community is the biggest thing.”

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