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While the fate of new entrants on liner shipping’s main east-west trades remains uncertain, due to the worsening freight rate environment, there are still opportunities for start-ups in niche trades.

This appears to be the thinking behind a recent deal between Abu Dhabi Ports shipping subsidiary Safeen Feeders and Bangladeshi firm Saif Powertec, which will see Safeen splash out $102m on three vessels for 15-year charters with Saif Powertec.

The vessels are set to be delivered to Saif Powertec in November and are expected to be deployed on services out of Bangladesh, possible including a new string between Chittagong and Abu Dhabi.

“We are delighted to expand our partnership with Safeen Feeders through this new charter agreement, which will enable us to expand our portfolio of container shipping services,” said Tarafder MD Ruhul Amin, MD of Saif Powertec.

“Bangladesh has been underserved by direct services and this new agreement will enable us to fill a substantial gap in the market and drive UAE-Bangladesh trade.

“The intention is to charter three vessels at the outset, offering 1,700–2,100 teu capacity each, which will enable us to realise significant returns on this route and deliver real benefits for our customers.”

While Abu Dhabi hosts a raft of services that call at the Indian Subcontinent’s west coast, there are no direct connections to its east coast or to Bangladesh, according to the eeSea liner database.

However, it does host several Asia-Europe deepsea services and, with Bangladeshi exporters dependent on transhipment connections at Colombo, Singapore or Port Klang to reach western markets, a new service into Abu Dhabi would provide new container supply chain options – especially following the congestion issues and social unrest that have plagued the Sri Lankan hub this year.

Capt Ammar Mubarak Al Shaiba, acting CEO of Safeen Group, said: “Leveraging Safeen Feeders’ expertise, this containership charter agreement with Saif Powertec will help meet surging container traffic demand along Bangladesh-bound routes.

“We have structured the agreement to reduce exposure to market volatility and ensure a positive return on our investment in these vessels,” he added.

The two companies have a similar relationship in the bulk sector, where Saif Powertec charters dry bulk vessels operating between Bangladesh and the UAE port of Fujairah. However, this will mark Saif Powertec’s introduction to the box shipping trade

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