Shipping company profits break an all-time record

Inspenet, March 31, 2023

Shipping companies’ earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) over the past three years would have exceeded the combined earnings of the 63-year history of container shipping, totaling $208 billion in 2022, $164 billion in 2021 and $24 billion in million by 2020, according to data from a new analysis published by Sea-Intelligence .

In addition, the report estimates that by 2023 the industry could accumulate an EBIT of USD 15,000 million, due to lower profitability due to the decreased volume of cargo and the drop in freight rates.

Contradictoryly, freight rates, although they have been falling steadily in recent months, are still at levels above pre-pandemic values. For example, on the transatlantic route from Europe to the United States, the transport of materials is helping to keep rates high due to high demand -more than double those registered before the outbreak of Covid-19– although on the transpacific route container shipping prices have already returned to pre-pandemic figures.

Although consultants such as Drewry show drops of up to 30% in rates on the route from northern Europe to the east coast of the United States (Rotterdam-New York), averaging USD 5,000 per forty-foot unit, which positions the values registered up to 2.5 times above the 2019 averages.

The excess stock in warehouses and the lack of consumer demand are being the main difficulties when it comes to the rise in rates, especially on the route from China to the west coast of the United States.

Although independent of each other, falling fares on one route inevitably end up affecting the other, setting a downward trend in fares dragging the entire market down. The problem, according to expert analysts, is that the drop in spot rates has a long-term impact on the contracts, favoring the spot market – which will always be offering lower prices – to the detriment of the high values agreed in the contracts, perpetuating the drop in rates and compromising the profits that shipping companies currently enjoy.

The secret to success –or at least the formula for not falling even deeper– would lie in the management of capacity and speed of navigation, together with an adequate management of the offer in the face of diminished demand, the excess of stored merchandise and the change in consumption behavior towards food and instead of goods. It is not enough just to consider the factors of transport, such as the value of fuel, but it is important to remember the conditions and context of the market to contribute to stabilization.

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Photo : Envatos

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