BENGAL Tiger Line's monopoly over the Singapore-Madras container trade has once again been challenged - just six months after the last challenger, Orient Express Lines, gave up the route. The new challenger is Pacific International Lines (PIL), Singapore's largest privately owned shipping line, which launched a weekly common feeder service late last month. PIL has deployed two vessels on the route, the Kota Ria and the Sea Dragon, each of which has capacity of 350 TEUs (20-ft equivalent units), including reefers. A PIL executive said the carrier started a Singapore-Madras service because many of its main-line operator (MLO) customers had asked for it. MLOs are the larger shipping lines which call at the bigger ports around the world. The executive said that besides providing MLOs an alternative carrier on the trade, PIL's entry effectively gave the big carriers an extra sailing per week to feeder their transshipment containers between Singapore and Madras. PIL's first two sailings, one on May 28 and the other on June 4, were about 60 per cent full, which a line executive said was up to expectations. He added that the carrier would upgrade its service in line with the trade's growing demands. He pointed out that the new service was also in line with the Port of Singapore Authority's promotion of Singapore as the transshipment hub in Southeast Asia. PIL's current level of service, however, pales in comparison with that provided by BTL. The Hamburg-based, non-vessel,common-feeder operator provides a sailing every three days using five ships with capacities for between 400 and 700 TEUs. BTL has outlasted several other carriers on the Singapore-Madras route since the company started its service in 1986. Those that gave up include Nedlloyd-owned Sindbad Lines, Thailand's Regional Container Lines and local operator Macoline. The most recent casualty was Dubai-based Orient Express Lines, which quit in December last year after working the route for more than two years. Still, BTL is not taking it easy. ''We take any competition seriously,'' said a spokesman for Ben Line Agencies, BTL's agent in Singapore. The spokesman added, however, that BTL had built a reputation for reliable service. Box rates on the trade route range between US$350 and $280, depending on the number of boxes per customer.