Ocean lines making near $80 billion in operating profit for year so far

Digitisation to be the biggest change in the container shipping industry post-pandemic

Container lines saw significant increases in revenue in the third quarter leading to an operating profit of almost $80 billion for the year so far.

Latest data from Sea-Intelligence noted that the shipping industry’s Q32021 financial performance made an eye-watering $37.24 billion in operating profit in the third quarter alone – driven largely by record-high freight rates.

Combined with the first half of the year operating profit (profit before tax and interest deduction) of $42.10 billion, the analysis firm noted, carriers made close to an eyewatering $80 billion.

Year-on-year revenue growth ranged from +83.9% for Maersk to +274.1% for Wan Hai, Sea-intelligence added.

Comparing the figures to 2010-2020 operating profit, the industry has doubled its operating profit in just three quarters of 2021 compared to the entirety of the previous decade.

© Sea-Intelligence

“This is an unprecedented level of profitability,” Alan Murphy, CEO of Sea-Intelligence wrote.

MSC, the second largest carrier, is a privately held company and thus does not publish its accounts.

The sky-high earnings for carriers have drawn the attention of regulators – notably earlier this year following a new executive order signed by the Biden administration to crack down on anticompetitive behaviour in rail and ocean shipping industries.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on 8 July said that the President will instruct the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to wrangle “unjust and unreasonable” fees and work with the Justice Department to investigate and punish anticompetitive conduct.

Psaki noted that three foreign-owned shipping alliances control more than 80% of the global market, contributing to a spike in shipping costs and fees during an e-commerce boom from the global pandemic.

“A lot of American companies rely on railroads to ship their goods domestically and ocean carriers to ship their goods internationally.  Both of these industries have grown more concentrated over time,” Psaki said.

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