SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s leading shipper, HMM Co., said Monday it has deployed two additional ships to cope with soaring freight costs amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

HMM will operate two additional 16,000 twenty-foot-equivalent unit (TEU) ships, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. TEU is a measure used for the capacity of container transportation.

The launch came around a month earlier than the original schedule of April.

South Korea earlier announced a plan to add eight shipping vessels by June under ties with HMM.

South Korea, meanwhile, plans to continue to keep a close watch on the market to provide exporters with more shipping options.

South Korea’s exports rose 9.5 percent in February from a year earlier to extend their gains for the fourth consecutive month on robust shipments of chips, autos and other key products.

Chips led the overall gain in February, with their outbound shipments expanding 13.2 percent on-year to $8.3 billion, rising for the eighth consecutive month. Overseas sales of automobiles also shot up a whopping 47 percent to $3.5 billion.