NEPTUNE Orient Lines (NOL) will upgrade its Far East to the east coast North America liner service and the Asia-east coast express (AEX) service to a fixed day weekly service from the end of this month. Transit times provided by the AEX service are up to 10 days faster than the conventional mini-land-bridge rail operations which require containers to be transferred to railway cars on the US west coast for relay to the east coast. The service will be boosted by the addition of three 21-knot vessels with a capacity of 2,000 TEU (20 ft equivalent unit) to the existing fleet of six ships. The AEX service provides the best transit times from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to the east coast of North America. ''This service is attractive to shippers who ship to the east of the Mississippi river, the mid-west and the Ohio valley,'' a NOL statement said. The AEX service, which also offers an unmatched transit time of 19 days from Colombo to New York, 22 days from Singapore to New York and 24 days from Singapore to Charleston, is especially attractive to time-sensitive goods such as apparel and footwear. The ''double-Suez'' feature of the AEX service ensures that it is able to provide the best transit times on the return leg to the Far East. The service will continue to call at ports in Keelung, Hongkong, Singapore, Colombo, (Suez), New York, Charleston, Norfolk, New York and Halifax before returning to the Far East via the Suez Canal. The AEX service, which was launched and operated solely by NOL since November 1991, will be expanded when a Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) vessel joins it from end of November. At present, NYK purchases slots from NOL on the AEX service. Once in operation, the lines will offer the largest number of liner services in the trade between the Far East to North America, with six fixed-day weekly sailings. The carriers also recently launched a tri-continental Far East-North America-Europe service with Hapag Lloyd.