Merchants Storage Co. of Virginia, once one of the largest agents for United Van Lines, has filed for bankruptcy in federal bankruptcy court in Alexandria.

"They've got a lot of creditors and potential creditors," said the company's receiver, Richard A. Bartl. "I guess it's quite a list."

Bankruptcy court files include a 225 page partial list of about 2,700 creditors of Merchants Storage and its three subsidiaries, Merchants Management, Inc., Merchants Custom House Brokers, Inc. and Merchants International, Inc.

Bartl said that company employes are trying to determine the company's assets. More complete court papers are due next week.

Among some assets listed in the partial court papers are 80 tractors and trailers, vans and other trucks. Two inoperative tractors are now at Dulles International Airport and two empty trailers are at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Newport News.

Other assets include boxes, moving equipment, inventory, office furniture and others items which have "substantial value," court papers said.

Merchants Management rendered management, sales and administrative services to Merchants Storage, Merchants International and Merchants Custom House Brokers, according to court papers. Merchants International was in the international and domestic air and surface freight forwarding business as well as a travel agency, court papers said.

Last week Republic Van Lines of Baltimore, the nation's 11th largest moving company, said it was unable to repay a $3.4 million loan and had to close its doors. Republic said it had "insufficient funds to meet these obligations and has been unable to reach any reasonable solution of its financial and operating problems."

Republic does not expect "there will be any liquidation proceeds available for distribution to general creditors or to stockholders."

It could not be learned yesterday whether Merchants was a publicly held company.Bartl said he believed it was not. Merchants officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Industry officials have said many movers are falling upon hard times because of increased transportation costs such as higher gasoline and inadequate rate hikes granted by the Intersate Commerce Commission. They said the larger van lines are operating at onlya 1 percent profit margin.