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CMA CGM Group inaugurates its Weekly Dedicated Export Block Train service between ICD Sonipat and Mundra

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HARYANA : Containerised block train operations appear to have become an integral part of ocean carriers’ growth strategy in India amid rapidly-evolving industry dynamics.

In another market-leading move in sync with its integrator strategy, the French liner operator CMA CGM has begun a “round-trip” block train service between Mundra Port and Sonipat ICD [inland container depot], a northern India hinterland point.

A fully loaded 90 TEU train that left Sonipat on 7th April became the carrier’s first such offering, which officials said will be a weekly operation. CMA CGM has a string of fixed-day, weekly vessel calls out of Mundra.

“As one of the nation’s top ocean-freight carriers, CMA CGM is well positioned to serve its customers, thanks to a strong presence in India over the past three decades,” the carrier said in a trade announcement.

“The dedicated service will increase capacity by an additional 90 TEU to meet the growing market demand with a direct connection to major shipping services of INDAMEX, EPIC, MEDEX, etc.”

CMA CGM had already been running block train services from Mundra to northern Indian ICDs without a fixed schedule and the latest move provides the company an edge over its peers operating on Indian trades.

“The export connection will be followed by the import block train from Mundra to Sonipat every Sunday (which the Group is already operating since 2021),” noted CMA CGM. “In 2021 alone, the Group in India successfully carried 8,878 TEU of imports in its two weekly block train services between Mundra and Sonipat.”

Block train services — managed by a single shipping line — generally enjoy priority terminal handling in ports, thus enabling a quicker turnaround for trains, as against mixed train services offered by rail companies where boxes of multiple carriers are railed in/out on a first-in, first-out (FIFO) basis. Double-stacked block trains have also been a growing inland logistics play for major carriers in India.

“With this additional weekly service, the Group eyes on an additional capacity of 180 TEUs on a round trip basis,” pointed out CMA CGM, adding, “The Group already operates 13 weekly block train services, connecting key intermodal locations in India.”

The Marseille-based carrier currently offers 12 weekly long-haul calls out of various ports in India, apart from regular feeder activity.

Other container lines, such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, also run block trains on an “ad-hoc basis” in response to trade demands, more often now from India’s East Coast to JNPT as they look to divert cargo away from Colombo Port (Sri Lanka) because of transshipment bottlenecks.

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