The state of Maryland is starting a nationwide search for an executive director for the Port of Baltimore, following the resignation of the current direct, James J. White. He left after a six-year tenure.

The state’s transportation secretary, Robert Flanagan, has appointed a search committee headed by former state congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley. Flanagan said he wants to have a “short list” of candidates no later than Apr. 15.

The Port of Baltimore is one of the largest freight gateways into and out of the U.S., handling a record 7.3 million tons of cargo in 2003, and roughly 50% of the roll-on/roll-off cargo market along the East Coast.

“The Port’s role as an economic engine for Maryland cannot be underestimated,” said Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, noting that about 16,000 people are employed directly by Port-related companies. Nearly $2 billion in personal wage and salary income was generated by the operation for Maryland in 2003.