SAINT JOHN – A contract shipping firm from India is planning regular runs of goods between the Saint John port and Mumbai, starting with shipments of Moosehead beer.

Crystal Shipping Co. Pvt. Ltd., which does not own its own vessels, is expected to contract a cargo vessel operator to move 10 containers of Saint John brew to India’s largest city beginning in September, a company official said Friday.

“We see a lot of opportunities to develop trade out of this port,” said Capt. Ramesh Gulati, the firm’s chairman and managing director. “In the long term, we want to develop a regular service to India, and that could be a combination of many things, like bulk items, scrap metal.”

Gulati was in Saint John this week to tour the port’s facilities. The visit came after he met with port officials in India earlier this year as part of an Atlantic Gateway trade mission and further discussed a potential partnership during an inbound trade mission in Toronto last month.

Following the Saint John tour, Gulati said he was impressed with both the port’s flexibility on storage space and time limits, and its efficiency in moving cargo from ships. He said the fall shipments of Moosehead beer, which could not be confirmed with the brewer Friday, will mark the beginning of what will likely become a long-standing trade partnership.

Over the next several months, Crystal Shipping and port officials will try to identify goods that could move between Saint John and Mumbai on a monthly schedule, said Al Soppit, chief executive officer of the city’s port authority.

“The goal here is to see if we can get enough volume and develop a regular service both ways,” he said. “If the opportunities are there, we will talk to different exporters to see if we can put something together as a team.”

Crystal Shipping would be the port’s second customer to run a regular service to India, if the deal works out. Swire Shipping transports forest products from pulp mill AV Nackawic to the southeast Asian country on a monthly route, said Soppit.

Gulati said it is increasingly cost-effective to import certain commodities, rather than buying them from local producers. He said cement made in India, for example, costs about US$74 per tonne, while Chinese manufacturers charge about $48. Even with added freight charges, the Chinese product is less expensive and more attractive to import.

“That is the reason why shipping has expanded so fast,” said Gulati. “I don’t think the shipping industry has seen such good days as it does presently.”