2 steamship lines threaten to quit New Jersey ports Sea-Land and Maersk ask other ports to bid for their business


NEW YORK - In a move that could cut the cargo-container business at Port Newark and Port Elizabeth, N.J., by a third, the largest steamship lines in the New York region have announced that they are considering relocating to different ports along the Eastern seaboard.

The two steamship lines are Sea-Land Service of Charlotte, N.C., a unit of CSX Corp., and Maersk Inc. of Copenhagen, Denmark, a subsidiary of A.P. Moller Group.

The two lines sent a joint letter to seven ports, including Baltimore, several weeks ago asking them to bid for the business, said Chris Koch, a spokesman for Sea-Land. The shipping lines have not decided on a new location and will meet with representatives from each port to hear their offers, Koch said.

A final decision will be made this summer, he said.

For more than 40 years, Sea-Land and Maersk have moved freight in and out of Newark and Elizabeth and their departures would result in a substantial loss of jobs and revenue for the shipping business in New York, said James Capo, president of the New York Shipping Association.

Together, Sea-Land and Maersk employ nearly 600 longshoremen and handle about 500,000 of the 1.4 million cargo containers that pass through the port of New York and New Jersey each year, said Lillian Borrone, director of port commerce for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Sea-Land's lease will expire next February and Maersk's will expire in November 2000, she said.

Borrone said the agency received its letter from the two shippers May 13.

Koch said the companies were considering a move because the Port Authority was increasing their $10 million rent to a level they found unacceptable.

Neither Koch nor the Port Authority would disclose the new rent.

"We're very comfortable in the New York region," Koch said, "but if someone can show us a better way to do business, we're all ears."

Pub Date: 5/31/98

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