Half top ocean carriers post profits while others teeter close to bankruptcy


Half of the 16 top carriers that posted operating profits last year, but others closed the year near bankruptcy, reported the Paris-based research house Alphaliner.

Many profits in the first half of 2015 disappeared in the fourth quarter as freight rates scrapped the bottom and weak demand failed to bring the usual traditional pre-Christmas peak season resurgence.

The negative freight rate trend has continued so far this year, with rates sinking to new lows. The China Containerised Freight Index (CCFI) survey shows that average freight rates from China fell to a record low of 646 points as at April 1.

Among the carriers that reported positive operating results, four continued to outperform the rest of the market, namely, Wan Hai Lines, Maersk, CMA CGM and OOCL.

At the other end of the spectrum, CSCL reported a full year net loss of – US$474 million prior to the transfer of its container shipping operations to China Cosco from March 1.

China Cosco’s container shipping subsidiary Coscon recorded an operating loss of -$227 million in 2015, but government subsidies granted for the scrapping of old box ships allowed Coscon to post full-year net profits of $6 million.

Hyundai Merchant Marine’s (HMM) container shipping business posted an operating loss of – KRW209 billion ($185 million), on deteriorating freight rates and weaker volumes as total liftings decreased by 11 per cent to 2.93 million TEU. HMM is continuing its asset disposal programme to raise cash to avert bankruptcy.

Total container liftings of 14 main carriers also showed very weak volume growth in 2015. The combined liftings of the shipping lines surveyed shrank by 0.8 per cent compared to the previous year.