Abu Dhabi's cargo port is increasing its links to major sea trading hubs in South Korea and China.
The Khalifa Port Container Terminal, which now handles all cargo shipments to the capital, has joined South Korea's Hanjin Shipping's main line Far East - Middle East Express (FMX) to boost trade and decrease transit time through relay ports such as Singapore and Port Klang in Malaysia.
The weekly Hanjin line is Khalifa Port's fourth line linking it to the Far East.
The weekly FMX ship capacity would be 6,500 TEUs (standard container units) and would discharge imports, including project cargo and machinery, predominantly from South Korea, in Abu Dhabi and upload finished aluminium and plastic pallets from the capital, said Martijn van de Linde, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Terminals.
The UAE is a key investment destination for South Korea, whose state nuclear company Korea Electric Power Corporation is building four reactors in Abu Dhabi emirate. These are scheduled to come online between 2017 and 2020.
The new shipping service would add 1,000 containers a week.
"We have a growing export volume and we needed a more regular service," said Martijn van de Linde, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Terminals. "Hanjin has a growing market share in Abu Dhabi and it would expand our network for local and international trade."
Hanjin Budapest, the first FMX vessel, made its maiden call at the port on Saturday.
The FMX service connects the UAE's Khalifa Port, Khorfakkan and Jebel Ali with Singapore, China's Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Xiamen and Shekou, South Korea's Kawangyang and Busan, and Malaysia's Port Klang.
With the new service, the transit time between Khalifa Port and Singapore would be reduced to 11 days from almost two weeks.
"That's the fastest we have got now," Mr van de Linde said.
Among the current providers of links with the Far East are the Singapore-based shipping company APL and the French transportation company CMA.
The Emirates is a leading ports player in the Middle East and North Africa, and the fifth-largest in the world, according to the World Bank's Doing Business Report.
Abu Dhabi's rise in the ports sector is a result of a focus on diversifying its non-oil economy, a plan laid down in 2009 as part of Vision 2030. When it comes to re-exporting, the UAE is the third-busiest port, with Jebel Ali taking the leading role.
By 2030 China will dominate the world merchant fleet when seaborne trade is estimated to increase from the current 9 billion tonnes annually to between 19 billion and 24 billion tonnes, according to the Global Marine Trends 2030 report.
Khalifa Port is one of the three ports that Abu Dhabi Terminals manages. The other two are Mina Zayed and Mussafah.