PORT OFFICIALS AT NEW ORLEANS were in a dither recently about media reports that major rubber importers are considering moving to other Gulf ports.
But Gene Colley, president of a firm that samples, inspects and weighs about 60 percent of the port's rubber, said importers got results by going to the media.Several rubber importers complained in early March that the Dock Board's decision to increase wharfage from $1.30 a ton to $1.60 a ton effective April 1 could force them to switch to Mobile, Ala., or Pascagoula, Miss. As a cost factor, wharfage ranks well behind other expenses such as rail transfer and inland freight. But for some importers, the rate increase was a last straw.
Mobile, meanwhile, which once handled a good bit of rubber, has renewed its interest inhandling the commodity. The Alabama State Docks has spruced up warehouses and sent letters to some importers.
New Orleans responded to rubber importers' complaints about the higher wharfage with a proposed volume-incentive sliding scale. The importers insisted that the wharfage be frozen at $1.30 a ton.
Once the rubber situation was made public, New Orleans officials said they have an overall "strategy on rubber." J. Ron Brinson, port director at New Orleans, suggested that some were unaware of the "strategy" - which includes freezing the wharfage for rubber at $1.30 a ton. The issue will be considered at the Dock Board's May 28 meeting.
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THE SOVIETS' PURCHASE of 4 million tons of U.S. wheat should be a boon to some ports on the Gulf, through which most of America's grain exports move.
But it's too early to know which ports the grain will move through.
"It means more vessels calling at U.S. Gulf ports, and that is good for all," said Jim Pugh, director at the port of Houston, which is likely to handle some of the Soviet wheat. Other ports that could get a portion include Corpus Christi, Beaumont, Galveston, New Orleans and Mobile.
Mainly because of geography, wheat traditionally has made up a larger portion of bulk grain shipments in the Texas ports than it has along the Lower Mississippi, where soybeans and corn dominate.
John Fewer of Universal Shipping Agencies' New Orleans office said he
hasn't had a chance to "dissect" the purchase yet and couldn't say which ports or carriers might get some of the business. Mr. Fewer's company represents the Soviets, who charter ships as well as use their own flag vessels for such movements.
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THE FINANCIALLY STRAPPED CITY OF NEW ORLEANS may turn to a railroad for help with its money woes - but there might not be much available.
The City Council is looking at the budget of the Public Belt Railroad, a city-owned railroad that provides switching services for trunk lines serving the port, to help fund another city project. But the Public Belt has financial problems of its own. The line is operating at a loss and relies on a $9 million reserve fund for survival.
That reserve fund has caught the eye of one councilman who hopes to get about $200,000 a year from the Public Belt to run a proposed riverfront streetcar line.