As shipping executives continued to express grief over the untimely death of Knud Erik Moeller Nielsen, they said Maersk Line will overcome the loss of its next chief executive.

''It will clearly be hard to replace a leader with so much character and energy, but Maersk is such a strong organization, with so many qualified managers, that it's capable of coming up with a highly qualified replacement,'' said Doug Coates, principal of Manalytics International of San Francisco.The reason lies in Maersk's corporate culture, which develops talent from within and instills a deep sense of pride and loyalty to the privately held company.

''They recruit straight from school and do their own internal training,'' a carrier executive said. ''Their management are indoctrinated at an early age. Their entire senior management is home grown.''

Mr. Moeller Nielsen collapsed and died of a heart attack early Thursday at a meeting at the Danish carrier's corporate headquarters in Copenhagen. He had spent virtually all his adult life working for the organization. In April, he was slated to become chief executive of Maersk Line, elevated from his position as executive vice president of its liner division in Copenhagen. He was 51.

''It's extremely sad that Erik died, and it will make a difference to the company in the sense that he was a talented guy,'' said an industry executive. ''But in terms of the overall business in the long run, it won't make a difference.''

Maersk, more than its peers in the industry, is known to have solid depth of management, said another observer, analyst Mark Page of Drewry Shipping Consultants. ''The Maersk myth is that of being a slightly impenetrable, efficient and strong organization,'' Mr. Page said. ''One expects that they are in a position to cope with this in the long term.''

Most Danish shipping companies, as well as other companies across Europe, have managers drawn from Maersk, noted a source within the Danish maritime community. ''They are known for depth of management. They have a lot of qualified people,'' he said.

Target Marketing Worldwide, an Athol, Mass.-based cargo broker, uses Maersk to handle about 80 percent of its shipments of tissue paper.

''We commit so much cargo to Maersk because they're an excellent, reliable carrier,'' said Tom Ellis, president of Target Marketing.

''The fact that you can talk to people at Maersk who can give you the right answers because they know what they're talking about is one of their most distinctive qualities,'' Mr. Ellis said. ''We turn to Maersk because we feel they will do whatever has to be done to get our cargo where it has to go on time.''