Booming growth in intra-Asian trade is leading Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. to boost capacity by redeploying vessels.

OOCL, as the line is known, is Hong Kong's premier containership operator with a fleet of 30 ships or so plying all main world routes and substantial intermodal and shoreside facilities.The line is upgrading regional feeder services this month with more capacity on routes serving Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. A wholly new route is being opened between Taiwan and South Korea, and an additional Australian call has been added.

The service linking Hong Kong/Taiwan with the main Thai port of Bangkok will offer as much as double current capacity, Wilson Hung, OOCL director, told The Journal of Commerce. The line is relying on its priority berthing at Klong Toey, the oft-congested inland port of Bangkok, to cope with demand.

A service from Kaohsiung in Taiwan to Manila in the Philippines is being extended to Pusan in South Korea. This will allow containers "to be moved by OOCL's own feeder vessels from Pusan to Kaohsiung for connection with trunk services to Europe," Mr. Hung said Wednesday.

The Pusan-Kaohsiung service takes three days and will operate on a fixed- day basis. It also will have the effect of improving transit times between Pusan and Europe, Mr. Hung said.

Capacity on this route also has been increased, notably refrigerated space, which is up as much as 28 percent.

The round-trip transit for Indonesia has been cut to 19 days from 22, Mr. Hung said. Vessels on that run call at Kaohsiung, Singapore, Jakarta and Surabaya before returning to Hong Kong.

"Customers' cargo can now be looked after much better for the whole of the trip since it will rarely have to go outside the OOCL dedicated feeder network," Mr. Hung said.

He is projecting growth of as much as 15 percent this year in intra-Asian traffic to a volume equating to 3 million 20-foot containers, or TEUs.

The trans-Pacific remains the world's busiest route, with volume last year of about 6 million TEUs. The Far-East Europe run followed that in importance for OOCL with 2.5 million TEUs last year.

Mr. Hung's projections would put intra-Asian business in second place, even if the Far East-Europe trade manages the expected 10 percent growth this year.

"We are picking up business already in the region and see a lot of additional opportunities," he said.