In an effort to attract specific cargoes such as farm and construction equipment, portsfind they must offer ancillary services, including rail and highway access, along with a proven labor force, industry representatives say.

Thomas F. Howe, Midwest representative for the Port of Baltimore, one of the top gateways for the export of U.S. heavy equipment, said, "You need five ingredients," citing rail lines, highway access for trucks, a variety of ocean lines, marine terminal access and good labor.Other top ports for handling farm and construction equipment are Charleston; Hampton Roads, Va.; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; New York-New Jersey; New Orleans, and Savannah, Ga.

Rail service offering competitive prices to haul the cargo is paramount, Mr. Howe said.

In addition, truckers prefer a port that they can get into and out of smoothly. In Baltimore, "the interstate highway system is immediately adjacent to the marine terminals, so they have speedy access. The heavy haulers have expensive rigs and time is costly to them."

Good choices for ocean transport and frequent sailings are also necessary.

Manufacturers of the heavy equipment market to the four corners of the world, Mr. Howe said, and roll-on, roll-off service is now offered from Baltimore to "about anywhere in the world. You can get a variety of 'ro-ro' service and frequent sailings because we have all the auto ocean carriers calling Baltimore."

In fact, the North Atlantic is probably the best trade lane for availability of lines to carry heavy equipment.

Besides Wallenius Lines and Atlantic Container Lines, other carriers on that route include Hoegh-Ugland Autoliners A/S, Polish Ocean Lines, Wilh. Wilhelmsen Ltd., Westwood Shipping Lines, Norwegian Specialized Auto Carriers and Maersk Line.

The Japanese lines, such as Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha ("K Line") and Nippon Yusen Kaisha ("NYK Line"), which haul automobiles to Baltimore, are glad to get the heavy equipment as backhaul cargo.

"The newer version of the auto-carriers have adjustable decks, so they can handle other ro-ro cargo, unlike the first generation of auto carriers that had fixed decks," Mr. Howe said.

Wallenius, for example, has a new generation of vessel with movable decks that can accommodate combines, bulldozers and excavators.

Another element in successful handling of the heavy equipment is the ability to accommodate trains hauling the equipment to the marine terminal. In Baltimore, this is done at the Dundalk Marine Terminal, which enjoyed a surge in roll-on, roll-off cargo starting in 1991.

Most of the producers of agricultural and industrial equipment are located in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Successful ports put together a comprehensive package of services to attract this type of cargo.

Meanwhile, manufacturers like Deere & Co. of Moline, Ill., and J.I. Case Co. of Racine, Wis., work closely with their carriers to ensure proper handling of their equipment, which retails overseas for as much as $120,000.

Because the equipment is so expensive, laborers who know how to handle the equipment is crucial, Mr. Howe said. In Baltimore, members of the International Longshoremen's Association work the docks.

"They have been handling the cargo and recognize the high value of these kinds of cargo and the need for damage-free handling," Mr. Howe said. The work is also labor-intensive, creating jobs for ILA members.

Baltimore is the primary gateway for Case, manufacturer of construction and agriculture vehicles, he said, citing the port's proximity to inland manufacturers.

In addition, when JCB, which designs and produces backhoe loaders and other construction equipment, decided to open a North American headquarters, the company selected Baltimore because of its central location, good steamship service and proximity to a major airport.

The company imports some 13,000 units in the United States annually, with 40 percent to 50 percent moving through Baltimore. JCB uses Wallenius Lines, which handles the units at Dundalk.

Ports consider heavy equipment to be a valuable commodity and their marketing staffs work hard to attract it.

"We're actually growing as a port to handle that cargo because we're targeting it," said J. Melvin Bafford, general manager of shipper sales for the Maryland Port Administration.

Latin America and parts of Eastern Europe are prime markets for rolling stock such as tractors, earth-moving equipment, construction machinery and other types of farm and industrial equipment, port representatives said.

Anne Moise, spokeswoman for the Port of Charleston, S.C., said the port is moving mining, construction and farming equipment to Latin America.

Robert W. Goethe, assistant executive director for the Georgia Ports Authority, said there is demand for the heavy equipment in Eastern Europe, including western Germany and Poland.

In the case of Savannah, the equipment is shipped both in containers and on roll-on vessels, Mr. Goethe said.

Services to the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf are also busy routes for roll-on vessels.

On the West Coast, at the Port of Oakland, Calif., rail shipments can move

from the mainline carrier to the Oakland Terminal Railway, onto the terminals and to the cranes that will load the machinery aboard ship. The Oakland railway is an intraport line jointly owned by the Union Pacific Corp. and Santa Fe Pacific Corp.

Although most of the farm and industrial equipment moving through West Coast ports is containerized, there is still a relatively strong market for roll-on stock at South Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports.

Some equipment such as tractors exported by Massey Ferguson Inc. is small enough that it can fit into standard ocean carriers.