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Third-quarter operational data from OOCL is the first hard evidence of huge profits made by ocean carriers during the period, which could oblige those that are stock market-listed to again upgrade their full-year outlook.

The Cosco subsidiary’s revenue soared 125% on Q2 20, to $4.3bn, despite a 7.2% decrease in its liftings, to 1,810,142 teu.

However, perhaps more impressively, compared with the previous quarter, OOCL’s revenue jumped by 25%, for an average rate per teu of $2,383, up 34% on Q2.

Notwithstanding the highly elevated spot rates in the market, carriers are now locking-in contract shippers to multi-year deals, with the latest Xeneta XSI index (covering long-term rates) showing a 91% year-on-year gain.

The Q3 decline in OOCL carryings is a contrast to the normal volume surge seen during peak season, showing the extent of port congestion delays on volumes.

Drilling down into its regional sectors, on a year-on-year comparison basis, the carrier’s transpacific services carried 16.4% fewer containers in Q3, at 489,935 teu, while its transatlantic loops lost 20.3%, to 112,814 teu.

Carriers have been accused of redeploying tonnage from North Europe to US east coast services onto more-lucrative routes during the summer, the impact of which was to spike rates on the tradelane.

Spot rates on transatlantic services have leapt by over 200% since March, with shippers also obliged to pay premium fees to guarantee shipment.

The only region where OOCL recorded an increase in its liftings was Asia-Europe, where it carried 6% more containers in Q3 than in the previous year, at 415,180 teu, for a staggering 234% more revenue, at $1.32bn. And for the Hong Kong-headquartered carrier, Asia-Europe was where it recorded it biggest rate gains, with its average jumping from $1,110 per teu to $3,176.

Nevertheless, despite huge gains elsewhere, OOCL’s intra-Asia/Australasia sector remains its biggest region, at 44% of its total liftings; 792,213 teu carried in Q3, for revenue of $1.13bn.

Its parent, Orient Overseas (International), only publishes its financial results half-yearly, but commentating on its results in August, the firm attributed its H1 ebit of $2.8bn, earned by its container arm in the first half of the year, to market dynamics and careful budgeting.

“These market forces have put upward pressure on freight rates on most tradelanes, and it is these market forces, in addition to our usual attention to cost control, that has driven the strong profitability that has been achieved during the period,” it said.

Drewry said last week it had further upgraded its liner industry profit forecast to an “eye-watering” ebit of $150bn, and predicted “slightly more again next year”.

Putting these numbers into context, according to data compiled by New York-based consultant Blue Alpha Capital, the liner industry has only managed to record $55bn of net profit in the past five years.

Liner industry leader Maersk is due to report its Q3 results on 2 November, with Hapag-Lloyd reporting on 12 November.

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