In ''NIT League head: No changes for OSRA on horizon'' (Nov. 17, Page 23), Ed Emmett suggested that Rep. Henry Hyde not alter the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. He was echoed by big shippers and steamship lines - the very parties who, with longshore labor, won so big with OSRA.

I have the greatest admiration for Mr. Emmett, whom I have considered a friend and mentor from his days on the Interstate Commerce Commission. Among his talents, of course, is spin.Unspun, OSRA is a regulated, un-level playing field that discriminates against the hundreds of thousands of small American shipping firms. Those shipping firms can only compete in world markets by using a healthy, natural intermediary community.

Those intermediaries, called non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOCCs) have been cleverly crippled in the OSRA marketplace by having to post their prices publicly while all the big players can deal with normal privity of contract and price. It is a transportation market that will never work until it includes normal market intermediation and antitrust protections.

Compromise, which is such a prized goal inside the Beltway, in this case compromises the market mechanism and interests of the hundreds of thousand of small shippers and intermediaries who live outside the Beltway.

The top few hundred ocean shippers are big enough to negotiate with the big ocean carriers and can also maneuver around the expensive pier prices and practices. You can guess, when the biggest shipper's prices get negotiated down, whose go up.

The only way the hundreds of thousand of smaller shippers can gain any leverage is through intermediaries who can consolidate many small shipments into large shipments for the big carriers.

The double dose of keeping antitrust immunity for the big ship lines and crippling the intermediary service in the marketplace is what must be fixed before OSRA can work for America.

Therefore, not only should the intermediary industry ''be sitting in Congressman Hyde's office in Washington,'' as one person put it, but so should the hundreds of thousands of small shippers and every consumer.

To take it one step further, Americans have led the world economically over the centuries by having more natural, open markets. Why should not Congressman Hyde and all the rest of us be trying to export level playing fields and natural markets rather than the current OSRA structure, which favors only the biggest in the world?

My company has been a transportation market intermediary in domestic and some international freight markets for 37 years. I can safely say that one can spin it any way one wants, but it ain't gonna work right 'til it's a wide-open, natural market with as many intermediaries as the rest of the market players think they need. Sorry, Mr. Emmett, but with all modesty I'd like to think that I'm more expert here.

Those counseling ''Let's give OSRA a chance for some years before changing it'' must realize that good practices and people will get lost or crippled. The longer the ocean market is compromised the longer and tougher the correction will be. Correct it before it solidifies crooked; let the normal market define itself earlier, not later.

Let's all wish Chairman Hyde Godspeed and get our testimony and votes ready for him every time he needs them.

Hopefully, with his courage and persistence, it won't be too long to get ocean reform reformed and working for all of us, including the big guys.


President Tucker Co.

Cherry Hill, N.J.