FOSTERS RUMORS BREW FEAR IN AUSTRALIA SHIP SECTOR

FOSTERS RUMORS BREW FEAR IN AUSTRALIA SHIP SECTOR

The strong likelihood that Carlton and United Brewery (CUB) will cease shipping Fosters canned beer to the United States beginning next May has thrown Australia's already depressed shipping sector into a panic.

Industry sources confirmed CUB will stop shipping its 3 million cases a year to the United States of Australia's best known product from its Melbourne headquarters. Instead, CUB will deliver the beer to U.S. markets' Molsons plants in Canada, said the sources, who declined to be named.CUB owns 50 percent equity in Molsons, which last year began selling Foster draught quietly from its Toronto plant.

Halting beer shipments from Australia would be a big blow to the country's shipping lines. Such shipments involved some 2,000 TEUs (40-foot containers) in calendar 1991. This was an even larger commodity for the four key lines than shipments of meat from Australia.

CUB shares out bookings with ABC Containerline, the conference vessels of Blue Star PACE and Columbus Line, plus independent ANZDL. Its contracted bookings mysteriously fell behind in 1991 and all shipments since late last year have been made via conference vessels that have been taking Fosters to the U.S. West Coast for the first time.

Traditionally, ANZDL has carried most Fosters to the West Coast. Its ships do not go any further and deliveries in the United States itself rely on a sophisticated landbridge operation.

CUB is tight-lipped about the delivery switch to Canada, as are the shipping lines.

Carriers are said to be searching for replacements for CUB's beer bookings. Possibilities include shipping tires to the United States from Pacific Dunlop/South Pacific Tyres and shipments of new Uncle Ben's Chinese sauce in huge quantities from Masterfood's plant north of Sydney.