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Maersk is launching a new container service between the Middle East and West Africa as it targets growing tradelanes.

The independent string, branded the Al Maha, will connect ports in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Egypt and Morocco, and replaces Maersk’s ME3 and ME4 networks.

A fleet of seven 8,500-teu vessels will be used to provide a weekly frequency from next month on a rotation of Tangier, Port Said, Jeddah, Salalah, Jebel Ali, Doha, Dammam, Jubail, Jebel Ali, Duqm, Salalah, Jeddah, Port Said and back to Tangiers.

“Over the last few years, reliable and predictable supply chains that cater to evolving consumer behaviours have emerged as the backbone of global trade,” Bhavan Vempati, Maersk’s head of regional ocean management for the Indian Subcontinent, Middle East and Africa, told The Loadstar.

“Having carefully studied our customers’ requirements arising out of the current market dynamics, we have designed the Al Maha to help our customers drive value for their supply chains.”

Mr Vempati noted that  the new service, with its ample tonnage, could be a boon for petrochemical exporters out of Saudi Arabia.

In addition to multiple port calls, says Maersk, the service offers loading flexibility from Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, thus allowing shippers to reshuffle bookings between Dammam and Jubail.

The move is another example of Maersk’s increasing concentration on the Middle East corridor, as governments there make a heightened bet on container trade development. For example, Saudi Arabia is looking to quadruple its annual container volumes to 40m teu by 2030.

Maersk recently also added a West India-Persian Gulf regional loop, known as the Shaheen Express, to tap into resurgent demand from the retail and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) verticals, on the strength of a free trade agreement a year ago between India and UAE to boost bilateral trade to $100bn in five years. This connection rotates Mundra, Pipavav, Jebel Ali, Dammam, Jebel Ali and Mundra.

Reflecting the pace of trade expansion, the Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani), which governs all Saudi Arabian ports, reported combined container throughput swelled 13.5% year on year last month, hitting 681,663 teu.

You can reach the writer on [email protected].

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