Major container lines have devised new strategies to serve customers in the Indian subcontinent region, while continuing to capitalise on high-premium cargo needing larger tonnage.

And MSC and CMA CGM, both members of alliances, have taken the plunge with standalone shuttle services.

MSC has launched multiple services for Asian trades, as long-haul capacity becomes acutely tight and vessel schedules suffer from the challenges of congestion at hub ports in the Far East.

Among the new regional connections is a South-east India-China string, Osprey, on a rotation of Shanghai, Ningbo, Singapore, Colombo, Ennore, Visakhapatnam and Shanghai.

The Geneva-based carrier said Osprey would “improve transit times and open new opportunities for importers and exporters in the region, providing increased connectivity between these important trade hubs”.

Scheduled to begin from Shanghai on 23 July, the carrier claimed the service offered competitive transits out of Ningbo for Indian importers: 15 days to Ennore; 17 days to Visakhapatnam; and 19 days to Kolkata, via Visakhapatnam.

The move comes as spot freight rates on the backhaul intra-Asia trade to India have skyrocketed, with importers voicing frustration over cargo rollovers and unpredictable delivery schedules.

MSC has also enhanced its Bengal shuttle loop out of Bangladesh for its intra-Asia trade expansion, now on a rotation of Qingdao, Ningbo, Shanghai, Chattogram (Chittagong), Singapore, Tanjung Pelepas and Qingdao.

“The upgraded Bengal service will feature a transit time of 10 days from Shanghai to Chattogram,” the carrier said.

MSC’s regional connectivity push is also nudging into other Asian markets with a Central China-Vietnam loop, named Saola, and a Japan-South Korea string called Kaguya.

Meanwhile, French carrier CMA CGM is set to begin a shuttle service connecting Singapore, Chennai and Colombo, with the first sailing of the IEX2  planned for tomorrow, from Singapore.

The moves are a sign that the liners are increasingly seeing India’s east coast corridor, in and around Chennai, as a lucrative market, moving beyond the hotly sought-after west coast region, as the much-publicised “Make in India” industrial development programme diversifies.

Indian manufacturers rely heavily on raw material imports from the Far East, particularly China – a critical supply chain that has taken a severe hit in recent weeks due to the ocean capacity problems and widespread port congestion, with Singapore the biggest pain point.

“Space on ships is indeed an issue,” said Sunil Vaswani, executive director of the Container Shipping Lines Association. “The lines are, however, doing their best to accept bookings at origin, although rollovers of a week or two are quite possible.

“And some have resorted to ad-hoc vessel calls to increase capacity and push out containers.”

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