N. ATLANTIC NEWCOMER GIVES LOW SEALIFT BID

N. ATLANTIC NEWCOMER GIVES LOW SEALIFT BID

A company that currently operates no ships on the North Atlantic trade route has submitted the low bid to haul Military Sealift Command cargo from the U.S. East Coast to Europe and the United Kingdom during the next six months.

Apex Marine Inc., a subsidiary of Apex Resources Inc. of Delaware, indicated it plans to enter the trans-Atlantic route with two ships that will charge the MSC $28.52 a ton to haul general cargo in containers 32 feet and over in length.The MSC contracts, awarded twice a year for six-month periods, are important for American-flag ship lines, which by law are entitled to carry such government cargoes. Ship lines use the military cargo either as a reliable base on which to add commercial shipments, or to top off commercial cargo.

The bidding for the next six-month period, April to September, is the first since Sea-Land Service Inc. acquired the 12 Econships formerly operated by United States Lines.

Sea-Land will operate the Econships, the largest containerships ever built, in the trans-Atlantic service. Nedlloyd Lines and Trans Freight Lines will charter space in the ships but as foreign-flag carriers will not be eligible for MSC cargo.

During the current six-month period Top Gallant Group was the low bidder and Sea-Land was second. Sea-Land's bid this time was the highest among the carriers on the East Coast/Europe & U.K. route.

Apex Marine, in business since 1977, operates nine tankers, five bulk carriers and one roll-on roll-off ship. As low bidder, Apex would be entitled to 75 percent of the available MSC cargo on the route. The runner-up in the bidding, Lykes Bros. Steamship Co., would be eligible for the remaining share.

However, since neither Apex nor Lykes is likely to have capacity to carry its full share, the other bidders also would share in the cargo.

Trailing Apex in the bidding on the Europe-U.K. route were Lykes Bros. Steamship Co. (with a rate of $29.64), Top Gallant ($30.06), Farrell Lines ($30.09), American Transport Lines ($33.05), and Sea-Land Service Inc. ($38.40).

Sea-Land had bid $38.40 a ton during the six months ending March 31. Topgallant had bid $22.68.

Like Apex, Farrell now has no vessels on the East Coast to Europe/UK service. Farrell, a long-established U.S.-flag operator, bid on trans-Atlantic cargo last year but did not obtain ships to use on the route.

The MSC accepted rates offered by 12 U.S.-flag common carrier operators and three contract carriers under container and shipping agreements under bidding for the April-September period in 1988.

The MSC said that for the fourth consecutive cycle since October 1986, container rates increased on all major routes, except on the U.S. East Coast to Western Mediterranean route.

This is primarily the result of increased export cargo because of the weakened U.S. dollar, said the agency.

Ocean rates on containerized cargo increased overall by 4.2 percent, while breakbulk cargo increased 8.3 percent. On the Western Mediterranean segment, rates decreased an estimated 10.1 percent

During the next six-month cycle, which starts April 1, 2.4 million measurement tons, representing about $125 million in revenue including intermodal line hauls, will be shipped by the military on U.S. carriers, the command said.

Top Gallant was again the low bidder on the East Coast to Western Med route, at $21.95. But the big factor in the decrease in rates was Sea-Land, which lowered its rate by $15.05, to $19.65. Sea-Land was the second-lowest bidder on the route.

Other carriers, Lykes and Farrell, increased their rates slightly (Lykes

from $23.49 to $26.52 and Farrell from $25.78 to $27.71), while AmTrans entered the service with the third-lowest bid ($23.10).

Sea-Land was the low bidder in the four zones covered under the U.S. West Coast to Far East route: Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines and Japan.

The sealift command's rate agreements cover worldwide transportation of Department of Defense cargo.