US EXECUTIVES MOVING UP THE LADDER AT ASIAN CARRIERS S. KOREAN LINE SEES '90 GROWTH

US EXECUTIVES MOVING UP THE LADDER AT ASIAN CARRIERS S. KOREAN LINE SEES '90 GROWTH

Hanjin Shipping Co.'s Ronald P. Schley anticipates a "steady to strong" trade westbound in this year's trans-Pacific container business, but the eastbound trades are expected to show only slight growth.

"We had good volumes eastbound in 1989. We hope to duplicate that in 1990 with higher rates," he said.William Ralph, vice president of PIERS, the statistical reporting service of The Journal of Commerce, said the eastbound trans-Pacific last year was unexpectedly strong, with Asian imports through West Coast ports up 10.6 percent over 1988. Although most analysts are projecting a flat year, Mr. Ralph said the eastbound trades may once again confound the experts.

"Everyone has been surprised in this trade year after year," he said.

Westbound, most analysts see another strong year ahead. Ronald B. Gottshall, managing director of the TransPacific Westbound Rate Agreement, the conference that sets rates collectively for member carriers, is projecting a 6 percent to 7 percent growth in cargo volume.

The westbound trade last year totaled 22.9 million tons, up from only 13.2 million tons in 1985. "These are big numbers," Mr. Gottshall said, adding that even a 6 percent increase in cargo volume would be significant considering today's large cargo base.

"Our problem is getting enough capacity in the trade," he said.

Mr. Schley said Hanjin this year will increase its carrying capacity in the Pacific Northwest by about 14 percent as it replaces older ships it acquired in the 1988 merger with Korea Shipping Corp. Vessel utilization in the Pacific Northwest remains quite high, he said.

Mr. Schley, vice president of North America sales and marketing, said Hanjin last year had a 9.4 percent market share in the westbound trans- Pacific, making it the second-largest carrier in the trade.

Hanjin ranked third eastbound with more than a 9 percent share, Mr. Schley said. He added that Hanjin carries about twice as many containers as the other Korean-flag trans-Pacific line, Hyundai Merchant Marine.

Although Hanjin has had a reputation of cutting prices in order to attract cargo, Mr. Schley said his main focus this past year has been customer service.

"Over the past six months, we've gotten a real positive feedback from the shipping public about our customer service levels," he said.

According to PIERS, Hanjin is a major carrier, but it does not rank as high in market share as the company itself reports.

PIERS reported that Hanjin last year carried 109,379 20-foot container units or their equivalent (TEUs) from the U.S. West Coast to the Far East, which would place it among the top eight carriers with a 6.7 percent market share, and 62,536 TEUs from the East Coast, placing it third with a 13 percent market share.

In the eastbound trades, Hanjin carried 178,544 TEUs to the West Coast, placing it fourth with a 7.7 percent market share, and 57,658 TEUs to the East Coast, for a third-place ranking with 11.5 percent of the market.

Mr. Ralph explained that The Journal of Commerce reporting service

considers all of the Far East, including Southeast Asia, when it determines market share, whereas carriers often include only those countries to which they have direct service.