The chief executive of Sea-Land Service Inc. unveiled here on Thursday Sea- Land's plans to expand its global transportation links with the Soviet Union.
"We're investing a few million dollars to build a base here in the Soviet Union that has significant potential down the road," said Alex Mandl, chairman of Sea-Land, a subsidiary of CSX Corp.Mr. Mandl is in Moscow this week with 14 other U.S. chief executives and Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher to promote and explore the trade opportunities in the changing Soviet marketplace on behalf of U.S. business.
"(Mr.) Gorbachev told us that the early bird gets the worm and with the fast growing alternative services developing here, I just assume our company is here to offer them," Mr. Mandl said in an exclusive interview with The Journal of Commerce, after meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Sea-Land has signed two "connecting carrier agreements" with the Baltic Shipping Co., based in Leningrad, and the Black Sea Shipping Co., or Blasco, based in Odessa. They are two of the Soviet Union's largest regional shipping companies.
These agreements place Sea-Land in the leading position to carry cargoes, not only between Europe and Asia, but in the developing trades routes under the terms of the new U.S.-U.S.S.R. bilateral maritime agreement concluded Thursday.
Mr. Mandl said he expects Sea-Land "will get more than our fair share" of the 120,000 tons of cargo allocated to U.S. carriers under the new bilateral shipping accord.
Sea-Land will now have the right to "make use of space on Baltic's vessels sailing to and from points in North Europe and Leningrad." The Blasco agreement allows Sea-Land to use space on Black Sea vessels sailing between the French port of Fos-su-Mer and Odessa.
Sea-Land has decided to place five employees in the Soviet Union and to open an office in Moscow. The employees will be stationed in not only Moscow, but at Brest, located on the Soviet-Polish border adjoining the Soviet railroad system with Eastern, and eventually Western Europe.
Sea-Land will also send one of its employees to the Soviet Far East to ''oversee" the company's Trans-Siberian Express Rail Service that will begin transporting cargoes between Europe and Asia across the Soviet heartland.
"We have agreed on a very specific plan to initiate our Trans-Siberian express service by the end of this year," Mr. Mandl said.
Mr. Mandl said that the Soviets have greatly improved the Trans-Siberian Rail Service and now regularly deliver the cargo in 11 or 12 days. A year ago the same service took between 20 and 25 days, he added.
"This is a very competitive service both in terms of time and quality," Mr. Mandl said. He added that with two or three days at border junctions in both Asia and Europe, the total transport time is between 18 and 20 days.
To further improve the process, Sovmortrans is Sea-Land's agent in the Soviet Union and Mr. Mandl announced that this Soviet transportation entity will now be linked to the company's "global electronic mail network."
This is a major step forward for integrating the Soviet transportation system into the developing international system of electronic data interchange, or EDI, that will allow Sea-Land to specifically communicate with clients the current status, estimated time of arrival and contents of shipments while in the Soviet Union.
Later this month, a group of Soviet experts from the railway industry will be hosted by Sea-Land to learn more about the possibilities of including intermodal facilities into the Soviet transportation network.