MAERSK Line's policy to enlarge its market share contributed to generating historic low freight rates in the first quarter, according to Paris research house Alphaliner.
"In the first quarter, when most competitors were trying to curb capacity growth, Maersk deployed off-schedule extra loaders on both Asia-Europe and transpacific routes," said Alphaliner.
This was a key contributing factor in the 23 per cent drop in average freight rates during the period, said the Paris based container analyst.
Based on Alphaliner's table of selected first-quarter carrier results, Maersk's quarterly seven per cent year-on-year volume growth was "by far the highest' followed by OOCL, with 4.2 per cent growth and CMA CGM at 2.9 per cent.
The lowest rates were earned by APL, with an average of $797 per TEU - a 22.7 per cent decline on its average rate in Q1 2015. The next lowest was OOCL, $811 per TEU and a decline of 20.5 per cent, followed by Maersk's $929 per TEU, 25.5 per cent year on year.
Carriers' operating margins crumbled as freight rates slumped to record lows in the first quarter. Average freight rates, based on a sample of the 'reported revenue per TEU" of eight main carriers, dropped by 23 per cent in the first quarter compared to the corresponding period of 2015.
The fall in carriers' average freight rates was only slightly less severe than the 30 per cent reduction in the CCFI (China Containerised Freight Index) composite index recorded during the quarter.
This is due to the relatively more stable backhaul rates. These are not captured by the CCFI, an index which only tracks headhaul export rates out of China.
The weak rate environment was compounded by anaemic volume growth, with total container volumes growing by only 1.6 per cent in the first three months of the year, based on Alphaliner estimates.
Source : HKSG.