MAERSK Line, Wan Hai Lines and CMA CGM remain the world's top performing container shipping lines as demonstrated by the 2014 financial results for 17 of the leading carriers, which show 10 achieved positive operating results, while seven posted losses.
Maersk posted a 53 per cent increase in year-on-year operating profit to US$2.34 billion, attributing much growth to a 5.4 per cent decrease in costs due to efficiencies and low oil, said the Alphaliner survey.
The carrier's total liftings rose 6.8 per cent year on year but this was offset by a 1.6 per cent reduction in average freight rates, it said.
Wan Hai posted operating profits of $178 million for last year on revenue of $2.15 billion driven by strong volume growth on the main intra-Asia trade lanes, together with bunker cost savings.
Wan Hai said it will focus on growing transpacific volumes. It will increase its weekly allocation on the transpacific route from 1,500 TEU to 3,700 TEU through the launch of joint services in May.
CMA CGM took third place with an operating profit of $973 million on revenue of $16.74 billion, after liftings rose 8.1 per cent last year to 12.2 million TEU. But this was offset by a 2.7 per cent year-on-year decline in rates.
The company said that it achieved $420 million in cost savings from operational improvements, and $218 million from lower bunker prices.
At the bottom of the pack was CSAV, which posted an operating loss of $185 million for its container shipping activities, based on the results for the first 11 months of 2014, before the transfer of its liner business to Hapag-Lloyd that was finalised in December.
CSAV booked a one-off gain of $619 million in the fourth quarter from the Hapag-Lloyd transaction, but this was solely a paper gain as CSAV received no cash from the deal.
CSAV's results were negatively affected by the weak trading conditions in Latin America, which accounts for 77 per cent of its volume.
Hapag-Lloyd also posted an operating loss of $149 million, compared with an operating profit of $89 million in 2013, without taking into account the one-off charges arising from the merger of CSAV's container activities.
The operating loss stemmed from a 3.2 per cent decline in average freight rates, which was only partially offset by 2.6 per cent lower operating cost per TEU.
APL recorded an operating loss of $143 million in 2014, blamed on $45 million in additional costs caused by the port congestion in southern California in the second half of the year.
The operating results of Chinese shipping lines were mixed, with Cosco reporting an operating profit of $170 million for its container shipping activities in 2014, compared to an operating loss of $210 million in 2013.
But Cosco's improved results were partly due to government subsidies totalling $224 million from the scrapping of older vessels, which were partly offset by the impairment in the carrying value of the vessels demolished.
CSCL achieved an operating profit of $45 million, which excludes the gains from the government grants and from asset sales.
The shipping line's average freight rates were 1.1 per cent higher on international routes and 3.3 per cent higher on domestic routes.
CSCL's liftings fell by 1.2 per cent in 2014, as domestic shipping volumes in China were down by 10 per cent, although a 5.5 per cent increase in international volumes partly offset some of the loss.
Israeli flag carrier Zim managed to reduce its full year operating loss to $12 million in 2014, down from an operating loss of $161 million in 2013.
The shipping line's exit from the Asia-North Europe trade last year, as well as a reduction in charter rates for certain vessels as part of its debt restructuring deal with creditors, helped it to lower its operating expenses.
Source : HKSG.