AMERICAN President Lines (APL) is hoping to reach agreement with the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) before its contract with the union expires on August 15. The contract was extended by a month by mutual consent to avoid disruption of APL's operations and its customers' shipping patterns, according to APL executive vice-president John Burgess. In a letter to APL customers, Mr Burgess said talks with MEBA leaders were continuing and ''both sides are confident that we can reach agreement before the expiry date and remove the risk of any work action against APL''. Reports last week said about 300 administrative and customer service members of MEBA's Professional Office and Industrial Division (POID) had voted in favour of industrial action, the first in more than 25 years. ''While no guarantees can be given while negotiations are continuing, I would add that in the 25-plus years of our two organisations' relationship, APL has never suffered a work stoppage in concluding new MEBA contracts,'' Mr Burgess said. It is understood the letter was issued following concern at APL that some customer might consider diverting cargo to other carriers to avoid disruption to shipping schedules. ''APL recognises that the customers we serve have exceptional needs for reliable services and excellent service support,'' he said.