A new container service linking South Carolina and Asia starts later this month, adding to the growing number of larger vessels calling on the Port of Charleston, officials said.

The State Ports Authority said the scheduled June 23 arrival of Hapag-Lloyd Line’s Seattle Express vessel will mark the first shipment of a new Asia-East Coast service that uses the Suez Canal in Egypt to move cargo to and from destinations like Hong Kong and Singapore.

The service is called the CEC and is operated by the consortium of ocean carriers that includes APL, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Mitsui OSK Line, NYK and OOCL.

The new service also comes as SPA is aggressively courting more business for trade with Asian nations. Maritime experts say Asia will become an increasingly vital source of business for the East Coast once the Panama Canal is expanded.

Allison Skipper, spokeswoman for SPA, said CEC means a new weekly shipping option for port users.

“The new service creates additional opportunities for South Carolina and the region’s shippers to do business overseas,” Skipper said. “Exporters will have additional options in getting their product to market, and China is a growth market for goods from the Southeast, especially agricultural products.”

The ships on the CEC service can carry the equivalent of at least 8,000 20-foot-long containers, part of the Post-Panamax category of vessels that lines are increasingly using. Post-Panamax describes vessels too long or wide to squeeze through the Panama Canal.

The Seattle Express makes Hapag-Lloyd the fourth carrier to send a ship of at least 1,000 feet to the Port of Charleston, joining Mediterranean Shipping Co., Maersk Line and CMA CGM, Skipper said.

Charleston and other East Coast port cities are moving to deepen their shipping lanes to accommodate the larger vessels that the Panama Canal will be able to handle when an expansion is completed in 2015. Some shippers that don’t want to wait are sending big vessels west through the Suez Canal.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550.