The outbound Pacific ocean carrier rate-setting conference is planning to keep the pressure on commodity rates.

At a recent meeting here, the eight ocean carrier members of the TransPacific Westbound Rate Agreement decided to continue with their commodity-specific rate-hike program.Under the program, the carriers target different commodities for different increases at different times instead of trying to impose an across-the-board increase.

Forest products and animal feeds are two commodities the carriers said would be subject to increases later this year.

"We never recouped the Desert Storm increase," said Jack Peluso, international traffic manager for Union Camp Corp. in Wayne, N.J. "The ratio of freight cost to selling price is higher than it's ever been."

The conference decided to try to make it easier for shippers of perishable commodities to find out about rate actions that might affect their business.

Starting in April, the conference will have a fax line shippers can call and receive a "Perishables Bulletin." The bulletin will have the latest rate-change information on edible perishables such as fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood.

Ronald Gottshall, TWRA's managing director, said the new fax line was needed to give shippers advance notice of rate increases.

"Salespeople hate to pass on news about increases," Mr. Gottshall said. Shippers often aren't aware of an increase and can't plan for it in time, he added. The new fax system will help alleviate that problem, he suggested.

In other action, TWRA reduced its fuel surcharge, effective Wednesday, to $20 a 40-foot container, $16 a 20-foot container and $1 a revenue ton. The reduction is the result of a drop in fuel prices, the conference said.

Conference currency surcharges will increase, however.

Beginning in April, the currency adjustment factor will rise from 33 percent to 35 percent for Japan, 11 percent to 12 percent for Taiwan and 9 percent to 10 percent for Singapore. The factor for Korea, 6 percent, will stay the same.

The conference reported the Philippine government is starting a new cargo inspection program. Inspections take place at the port of export. Charges for the inspections will be assessed on the cargo, the carriers warned.