More than 250 champions of the containership industry gathered for a candle-lit dinner in downtown Manhattan to bid adieu to and roast Conrad H.C. Everhard, retiring chairman of the Korean line Cho Yang (America) Inc.

Then they started throwing rocks.''Conrad knows very little about everything,'' quipped Ed Kelly, chief operating officer of Cho Yang.

''I can't think of anything lousier to say about him,'' said Manuel ''Mike'' Diaz, retired president of DSR-Senator Lines.

''Conrad has his faults but being wrong is not one of them,'' said former U.S. Rep. Helen Bentley of Baltimore, a one-time chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

The event was Wednesday in the World Trade Center Marriott.

Perhaps Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, the 40 days of penitence that precede Easter, fit the roast of a man who had never filched a line or stretched a point; a man who is age 67, though he tells people 68, and warms to his audiences by cocking his head, unleashing his flashing smile and insisting, ''Humility is a vastly overrated virtue.''

Ms. Bentley: ''Chauvinism is one of your most attractive attributes, Conrad.''

Mr. Everhard: ''You can become anything you want, provided you set your sights low enough.''

A towering man with liquid eyes, Mr. Everhard came to the United States after World War II as a teen-ager from his native Holland.

He studied international affairs and went into the shipping business as a stevedore in Baltimore.

He cut himself a reputation for being able to lasso cargoes. He was never a detail man, and some today wonder if he can fill out a bill of lading.

Mr. Everhard garnered cargo in the Midwest and moved it across to the Port of Baltimore.

Word spread.

Who was this wild Dutchman who possessed the magic spade, who could locate cargoes where others groped, and who could fill ships with a single phone call during lunch from his favorite tables at the great steak houses overlooking Lakeshore Drive?


Ed King of Boston would hear of the word.

Mr. King, one-time National Football League star and to-be governor of Massachusetts, put a call through in 1964. He was head of the Massachusetts Port Authority. The recently opened St. Lawrence Seaway was bleeding dry the Port of Boston. The former Boston College lineman needed a miracle-worker in Europe to represent the interests of Massport.

''You should have seen that mansion he had us rent for him in Brussels,'' Mr. King recalled at the roast. ''And he had to have an Olds 88, a big, comfortable American car. He does things big. He talks big. But he performs big.''


His mark in the industry, which Mr. Everhard has seen steadily shrink, has been as an advocate. He opposes deregulation of shipping. He stridently favors the conference system. He fashions himself the champion of the smaller shipper.

''If this happens, senator,'' goes an oft-repeated ''Everhard'' plea, ''it's the little fellow who will get hurt.''

This caused Mr. Diaz to tell the roasters, ''I looked at the list of the sponsors of this affair. I see no shippers on the list.'' Mr. Diaz paused and gave Mr. Everhard a bored glance. ''And after all you've done for them.'' Mr. Everhard dueled sharply with Rob Quartel, president of a lobby group called the Jones Act Reform Coalition, which seeks major changes in U.S. cabotage law.

''Humility is no substitute for personality,'' said Mr. Quartel.

''He was born on third base,'' Mr. Everhard said of Mr. Quartel, ''and thought he had hit a triple.''

''I can say, it's been an exciting time. There has never been a dull moment,'' said Mrs. Yolanda Everhard, after the party. She said that some of the barbs aimed at her husband were new even to her, and that despite what many in the audience said, Mr. Everhard even loosed zingers that he had not recycled.

''Conrad,'' came one cheer, ''if you had been aboard the Titanic, the berg would have sunk.''

Jim Poon, chairman and managing director of Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. of Hong Kong, had worked years ago under Mr. Everhard, and had asked him to ''Americanize me.'' Mr. Poon recalled: ''Conrad then would introduce me. He told people I was his son.''

Then there was the night on a shady side of town in Italy when four toughs at the next table listened a bit too intently as Conrad regaled friends over dinner with the value of his new wristwatch.


Mr. Everhard, sensing trouble, told his friends to shuffle toward the door. Mr. Everhard strode directly to the table of the four ruffians. He introduced himself, with all the flash and flourish and confidence of a Midwest steamship rep promising to handle a cargo from Moline to Mozambique. ''I am,'' he fairly growled, ''Everhardi, capo di tutti of the Everhardi family in New York, and I am so glad to meet you . . . ''

The greetings took only a moment. The toughs paused to look at one another. Mr. Everhard made it slowly to the door. He stepped into the dicey streets and rejoined his dinner companions, with one salutation.