With a minimum of fanfare, Sea-Land Service Inc., Trans Freight Lines and Nedlloyd Lines have begun implementing their mammoth new trans-Atlantic space- chartering agreement.

The first vessel call in the United States occurred Monday when the Sea- Land Performance arrived in Houston after being overhauled at the Versatile Pacific shipyard in Vancouver, British Columbia.The Sea-Land Atlantic is already en route from Europe and is due to arrive in Boston Wednesday, Elizabeth, N.J., on Friday and Norfolk, Va., on Sunday. It left Bremerhaven, West Germany, last Thursday and then called at Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Felixstowe, England.

The vessels used in the service are the former United States Lines Econships, the largest containerships ever built. Sea-Land acquired the ships in early February from a bank consortium, which had bought them at auctions in different ports around the world after USL filed for protection from creditors in November 1986 and subsequently ceased all operations.

Four of the ships will be used on the route from U.S. North Atlantic ports to Northern Europe while five will sail between U.S. Atlantic and Gulf ports to Northern Europe. Both of these services will operate weekly.

The remaining three vessels will sail between the U.S. East Coast and the Mediterranean. That service will operate on a 10-day frequency, but will not get under way until late May.

Asked to explain the delay in starting up the Mediterranean service, a Sea-Land spokesman would only say that the carriers are phasing in the other services first.

The spokesman also declined to comment on the cost of overhauling the vessels. Sea-Land did, however, identify the shipyards performing the overhauls. (See chart.) Sources said Sea-Land is paying for work on seven vessels, TFL on three and Nedlloyd on two.

That reflects the fact that three of the ships will be painted in the livery of P&O Containers Ltd., the London-based parent company of TFL, and two in the colors of Nedlloyd, the large Dutch-based carrier, although only one vessel will be chartered to each of the foreign-flag carriers. As a spokesman for TFL put it, We're chartering one ship and adopting the other two.

All vessels, however, will fly the American flag and be crewed by U.S. citizens.

The three carriers cleared the final hurdle to starting the new arrangement last week, when the Justice Department announced it would not oppose the deal. Earlier, the Federal Maritime Commission rebuffed pleas from Farrell Lines Inc. and the U.S. Military Sealift Command to seek a court injunction blocking the agreement.

Despite the size and significance of the arrangement, none of the three carriers issued press releases either last week or this week concerning its formal inauguration.

It's just a normal operation. I don't think any fanfare is necessary, said Frits Van Riet, the Atlanta-based trade director for Nedlloyd's North American services. We are not inaugurating a new service. It's business as usual as far as we are concerned.

This is merely a change in vessels, said the TFL spokesman. All other aspects of the company and the service it provides its customers have not changed materially, she added.

Under the arrangement, each line will handle its own sales, marketing, documentation, inland transportation and other services. The only thing they will have in common is that their cargo will move on the same vessels.

The port rotation in the North Atlantic service will be Bremerhaven, Felixstowe, Rotterdam, Boston, Elizabeth, N.J., Norfolk and Bremerhaven. The rotation for the South Atlantic and Gulf service will be Houston, Jacksonville, Fla., Charleston, S.C., Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Felixstowe, Charleston, Port Everglades and Houston.

Ports of call in the Mediterranean service will be Elizabeth, Charleston and Savannah, Ga., in the United States. Mediterranean ports to be served are Algeciras and Valencia, both in Spain, Fos, France, and Livorno, Italy.


The following are the former United States Lines Econships that were acquired by Sea-Land Service in February. They will be deployed by Sea-Land,

Trans Freight Lines and Nedlloyd Lines in three separate services under a massive space-chartering agreement. The Galveston Bay, Newark Bay and Raleigh Bay will fly the colors of TFL, while the Nedlloyd Hudson and Nedlloyd Holland will fly the Nedlloyd colors. All the vessels were built at the Daewoo shipyard in South Korea; the shipyards listed below are overhauling the vessels:

New Names Old Names Shipyard Service

Sea-Land Atlantic American Oklahoma Jurong Shipyard, Singapore North Atlantic

Sea-Land Achiever American Alabama To be announced Mediterranean

Sea-Land Commitment American California Keppel Shipyard, Singapore South Atlantic

Sea-Land Integrity American Virginia Blohm & Voss AG, Hamburg, Germany North Atlantic

Sea-Land Performance American Washington Versatile Pacific, Vancouver, B.C. South Atlantic

Sea-Land Quality American Illinois Versatile Pacific, Vancouver, B.C. South Atlantic

Sea-Land Value American Maine To be announced Mediterranean

Galveston Bay American Kentucky Wilton Fijenoord, Rotterdam South Atlantic

Newark Bay American Utah Lloyd Werft, Bremerhaven, Germany North Atlantic

Raleigh Bay American New Jersey Keppel Shipyard, Singapore Mediterranean

Nedlloyd Holland American New York Jurong Shipyard, Singapore North Atlantic

Nedlloyd Hudson American Nebraska Wilton Fijenoord, Rotterdam South Atlantic

Source: Sea-Land Service Inc.