NEW YORK — Members of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement said they are looking forward to a robust 2004 and are suggesting another rate hike as a result.

Following meetings held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last month, the carriers said they will try to negotiate increases of $450 on each 40-foot container of transported cargo from Asia to the West Coast and a $600 increase on shipments to the East Coast and inland U.S. locations. The rate increases would take effect around May 1.

Last May, the carriers asked for and apparently received increases of $700 to $900 on transported cargo. The specific results of the negotiated rates were not made public.

“Shareholders and lenders understand that container shipping is a long-term investment and a cyclical industry,” said TSA executive director Albert A. Pierce. “But they still need to see a sustained return or they will put their money somewhere else.”

In addition, the TSA recommended a $400 peak-season surcharge for June 15 through Oct. 31.

The members of the TSA are American President Lines, CMA-CMG, COSCO Container Lines, Evergreen Marine Corp., Hanjin Shipping Co., Hapag Lloyd Container Line, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Maersk Sealand, Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Orient Overseas Container Line, P&O Nedlloyd and Yangming Marine.

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