Major container lines are boosting their coverage of the India trades to tap into anticipated stronger export/import demand growth amid the trade diversification in Asia.

Leading the push, CMA CGM has announced a flurry of service enhancements for the emerging market this week.

The French liner has rolled out a complementary loop to its BIGEX, or India-Gulf Express, service launched last April as the fastest direct connection from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Port to the Gulf market. It later discontinued Chittagong calls because of persistent demand woes.

BIGEX 2 will call Jebel Ali, Djibouti, Aden/Berbera, Colombo, Mangalore, Nhava Sheva and Mundra, and the carrier said: “We are confident that this new service will provide significant benefits to our customers and contribute to the economic growth of the connected regions.”

CMA CGM has also updated the rotation of its flagship Indamex routing between West India and US east coast with new calls at Savannah and Charleston, due to start on 15 August on a full rotation of Port Qasim (Karachi), Nhava Sheva, Mundra, New York, Norfolk, Savannah, Charleston and Port Qasim.

Additionally, next Thursday, the French liner will start a fortnightly shuttle service from Chennai to Colombo and Singapore. This move comes as transhipment trade in Asia is facing challenges from congestion at leading regional hubs, particularly Singapore.

Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk have also beefed up their networks between India and Europe: Hapag-Lloyd’s IOS (Indian Ocean Service) has an expanded rotation of Jebel Ali, Karachi, Nhava Sheva, Mundra, Tanger, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Antwerp, London Gateway, Tanger and Jebel Ali; while Maersk recently added Rotterdam, Felixstowe and Bremerhaven to its ME2 service, extending the market reach for Indian exporters trying to grab more orders.

“This strategic extension of the ME2 will benefit northern and western India exporters, particularly those in the lifestyle and retail sectors,” said Maersk.

The Danish carrier also noted that there would be significant transit time gains for Indian shippers – shorter by five to seven days for shipments to North Europe, and it claimed quicker transits on the backhaul would be a boon for Indian importers dealing in automotive components.

Meanwhile, container industry stakeholders are generally bullish on India’s economic indicators. The latest trade data also signals a rebound in goods export volumes – up 9% year on year by value last month.

Recent sailings out of Nhava Sheva and Mundra on the larger tradelanes of Europe and the US have reported full capacity utilisation rates, according to port sources.

But the congestion at Asian ports remains a wider concern. According to Sunil Vaswani, executive director of the Container Shipping Lines Association, Indian imports from China and the Far East are under pressure because of the vessel space crunch and schedule reliability issues.

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