CRAIG DUNLAP'S INSIDE TALK FROM THE SOUTHEAST

CRAIG DUNLAP'S INSIDE TALK FROM THE SOUTHEAST

AFTER SITTING ON PINS AND NEEDLES for the past two years, it appears the rival ports of Miami and Port Everglades can quit fretting over which of the two would land the hoped-for consortium service of Nippon Yusen Kaisha Line, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and Yamashita-Shinnihon Steamship Co.

Two years ago the Japanese consortium had hearts all aflutter in the south Florida maritime and trade community when the lines announced they planned to add either Miami or Port Everglades to their weekly Far East-U.S. East Coast service. But the lines' inability to escape their financial problems appears to doom such prospects, at least for the immediate future.Still, those who enjoy following a good competitive port tussle over a new service can take heart. Nedlloyd Lines still hasn't made up its mind over whether to include Miami or Port Everglades in its port rotation for the upcoming service between the United States and the west coast of South America.

A decision probably won't be made until June, said Jim Newsome, line manager at Nedlloyd's North American headquarters in Atlanta. Nor should too much be read into the location of Nedlloyd's office in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables. Mr. Newsome said that office is tied to Nedlloyd's European operations, administering its Caribbean services.

The advantage Miami does hold is the marketplace. Although the south Florida cargo base is drifting northward, the bulk of it is controlled still by the powerful local trading community that, for cultural and language reasons, simply prefers to work through Miami.

However, Nedlloyd has been calling Port Everglades for about a year now in its trans-Atlantic service and has recently teamed up with Sea-Land Service Inc. and Trans Freight Lines, two long-time Port Everglades users, in that service. So while the traders, forwarders and brokers may be more comfortable in Miami, Nedlloyd is more familiar with Port Everglades, which could serve as a transshipment point between Europe and South America, as it does for Sea- Land in the Caribbean.

* * * * *

IN THE IMMORTAL WORDS of Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch, Don't let the sunshine spoil your rain. Just stand up and complain.

That may be the approach of some in the New York maritime and trade community, but their counterparts in Wilmington, N.C., believe they have a better way. Rather than taking potshots at such an easy, high-profile target as the North Carolina State Ports Authority for allowing cargo to slip away to competing ports, the trading community surrounding Wilmington met last week to discuss what it could do to help the port authority bring more cargo through the North Carolina ports.

The state ports of Wilmington and Morehead City historically have failed to benefit from North Carolina's stature as the South's leading producer of export goods. As an official at the port authority put it, Where would Charleston and Norfolk be without North Carolina?

So a meeting was held to discuss how to get more North Carolina businesses to use the state ports. Although some port authority representatives were among the 75 persons in attendence, they were not invited or permitted to participate in the discussion, said one of the organizers, Robert Mack, traffic manager at Wilmington-based Cape Industries.

The upshot of the session was that we need to get more aggressive using the resources we have, Mr. Mack said. That could include using the North Carolina World Trade Association, the largest private-sector trade promotion group in the country, at the forefront in sponsoring legislative initiatives to facilitate trade through the ports.

A good place to start would be with the interstate highway system, which doesn't yet connect with either North Carolina port but works quite well to funnel cargo from western North Carolina to Charleston and Norfolk.

* * * * *

THE FOLKS IN WILMINGTON really would have had a lot to discuss at their meeting had sketchy rumors of Yang Ming Marine Transport's departure been true.

As it turns out, there are no plans by one of Wilmington's three remaining major containership lines to drop its calls there. Yang Ming's ships reportedly are arriving and leaving full, and all concerned appear generally

satisfied with the service. That's certainly good news at the port authority, which has watched TFL and Atlantic Container Line abandon Wilmington in the past two years.

When asked if he had heard the Yang Ming rumor, Bill Stover, port authority communications manager, admonished: Bite your tongue!