EVERGREEN DEAL FOR BEER ADDS TO RATE TENSION

EVERGREEN DEAL FOR BEER ADDS TO RATE TENSION

Evergreen Marine Corp. has secured another major beer contract on the North Atlantic at rates bound to increase friction between shipping lines in the trade.

The Taiwan-based carrier has just signed a service contract with Beck & Co., a Bremen, West Germany, brewer and one of the top beer importers into the United States.The agreement, at a rate of $1,200 a 40-foot container, is identical to a contract the carrier signed with Van Munching Co., the New York importer of Heineken, in late February.

Service contracts entitle importers and exporters to lower freight rates in return for guaranteeing fixed cargo volumes over a set period of time.

"We had the offer from Evergreen and we accepted it," said Syen Philipsen, shipping manager for Beck in West Germany. "We are very satisfied with the rate. We saw what carriers were doing in rates. We saw a chance."

The Van Munching contract signed by Evergreen raised the ire of other carriers at a recent steamship line meeting in Frankfurt, West Germany, according to industry sources.

The meeting had been called to hammer out a capacity-control program to enable carriers on the North Atlantic to raise rates.

The effort was seen as a continuation of joint efforts started the previous summer when 15 carriers, including Evergreen, agreed to boost rates on the North Atlantic.

The rates quoted by Evergreen in the Van Munching contract, and now duplicated in the Beck contract, were viewed by some carriers as an attempt to undermine that effort, industry sources said.

"Evergreen's company philosophy is that they are in the business of providing service and making money and the company doesn't sign contracts if the rate isn't compensatory," said Barbara Yeninas, a spokeswoman for Evergreen, which has its North American headquarters in Jersey City, N.J.

The $1,200 rate quoted by Evergreen for 40-foot containers in both the Van Munching and Beck contracts is about 10 percent below the going rate for beer shipments last year, shipping executives said.

"It's sending the wrong signal at the wrong time," said Capt. Nicola Arena, president of Containership Agency Inc., the New York agent of Mediterranean Shipping Co., Geneva. "All carriers are guilty of this type of thing one way or another, but the timing is unfortunate, since we are all talking about stabilization. Now carriers will have to reassess their rate position."

Like Van Munching, Beck promised a minimum of 2,200 40-foot containers under its contract, which is expected to be filed at the Federal Maritime

Commission in the near future.

Van Munching's beer shipments originate from Rotterdam, Netherlands. Beck shipments will originate from Bremerhaven, West Germany.