The shippers have traditionally been dependent on foreign transshipping, which has lately become a thorn in their side, reports IHS Media.
The carrier from early August will launch the ME7 - a weekly, eight-vessel string - from the Ennore port, near Chennai. The port rotation will be Ennore, Colombo, Salalah, Algeciras, Felixstowe, Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Jeddah, Salalah, Colombo, and Ennore.
The itinerary design suggests Maersk has a two-pronged strategy regarding India east coast trade - gateway access via Ennore and relay options through Colombo, Salalah, and Jeddah, which industry sources believe will significantly boost transit times and service reliability on the route.
With that entry, the liner is especially betting on Ennore's volume potential centering on automobile exports, retail demand, and other manufacturing sectors in the region.
'Our customers deserve a predictable service that will allow them to plan their supply chains better,' Bhavan Vempati, Maersk's regional head of ocean management in West and Central Asia, said in a statement.
The ME7 is being positioned at a time when the South East India-Europe Express Service (IEX), a joint operation between Hapag-Lloyd and Ocean Network Express (ONE), the only long-haul loader with sizeable capacity and expansive port reach for trade out of the region at present, has been beset by void sailings and poor schedule reliability.
Maersk has also realigned its Far East network out of India by upgrading the FI3 Service - connecting Qingdao, Xingang, Kwangyang, Busan, Tanjung Pelepas, Colombo, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), and Pipavav - from fortnightly to weekly, and combining the existing Chennai Express and Jade Express routings into a single loop, known as the FI4. The merged service will call at Colombo, Tanjung Pelepas, Ennore, Visakhapatnam, Tanjung Pelepas, Port Qasim, and Mundra.
Large-size mainline direct calls for Indian trades have thus far been mainly concentrated on the country's western corridor. But the addition of new, modern deepwater private terminals on the eastern coastline - mostly controlled by the Adani Group, including the Ennore terminal - is slowly drawing carriers to rework their Indian network math.
South India terminals handled a combined 404,687 TEU in June, versus 392,465 TEU in May, according to IHS Media.