Shipping lines’ ‘better than ever’ Q3 financial results – with more of the same expected for Q4 – have taken up many column centimetres in this portal.
And while we have reported on each line individually, Maritime consultancy Sea-Intelligence has now provided a big-picture perspective – and it’s an eye-opener.
“All global shipping lines saw revenues increase substantially as a consequence of the record-high freight rates, with year-on-year (y-o-y) revenue growth ranging from +83.9% for Maersk to +274.1% for Wan Hai,” says CEO Alan Murphy.
In terms of Ebit, the shipping lines made a whopping US$37.24 billion in operating profit in 2021‑Q3 alone. “Combine this with the 2021‑1H operating profit of 42.10bn, and the carriers have made nearly US$80bn in operating profit so far this year.”
Murphy points out that this does not include MSC, currently the second largest (and soon-to-be largest) carrier, which, as a privately held company, is not required to publish its accounts.
“To put this into perspective, the combined 2010‑2020 operating profit across all quarters was US$37.86bn. In short, the industry has doubled its operating profit in three quarters of 2021 compared to the entire 2010‑2020. This is an unprecedented level of profitability.”
Figure 1 reveals what Murphy describes as the “absurd” nature of the current supply/demand and freight rate environment, with the 2021‑Q3 Ebit/TEU figure of each of these shipping lines a clear outlier compared to the historical figures. The smallest Ebit/TEU was recorded by Maersk of 818 US$/TEU, while the remaining carriers all recorded Ebit/TEU of over 1 000 US$/TEU, with ZIM recording an Ebit/TEU of 2 100 US$/TEU.
And with many carriers having seen their global, Transpacific and Asia-Europe transported volumes contract y-o-y, the exceptionally strong Ebit performance for all carriers has clearly been driven by strong freight rates.