Zim has joined the fleet of major shipping lines posting impressive second-quarter profits, despite significant volume declines.

At $25.3m, the Israeli carrier’s Q2 net profit was its highest in a decade, and a whopping 394% increase on Q2 19.

Liftings were down 12.3% year on year, at 641,000 teu, however, while total revenue fell 4.7% to $834.3m.

On the other hand, Zim’s average rate per teu increased 7.9% to $1,071, underlining how carriers’ tight grip on capacity and costs has yielded bumper results.

“The recent Covid-19 pandemic outbreak has significantly impacted global economies, resulting in reduced demand and spending across many sectors, adversely affecting the volume of trades,” Zim said.

Eli Glickman, president and CEO, added: “The decreasing charter and fuel rates, as well as the freight rate levels, also had a positive impact on the results.

“During the first half of 2020, we continued to introduce innovative services to customers to cater for market demands. Our agile response and strong initiatives were very well received by shippers. We also continued to broaden our array of digital tools, improving the way we do business with our customers.”

Zim’s results come hot on the heels of the profit-drenched second quarters of Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd and even HMM, which moved into the black after 21 consecutive quarters of negative results.

For example: Maersk’s Q2 net profit increased year on year from $154m to $443m, despite volumes plunging 16%; Hapag-Lloyd’s net profit increased from $56m to $287m, alongside an 11% drop in volumes; and, HMM’s net profit was $23m, compared with a $54m loss in Q2 19, even though its liftings fell 22% to 894,000 teu.

Lars Jensen, CEO of SeaIntelligence consulting, has described the carriers’ newfound ability to control capacity and prop up freight rates – largely through blanked sailings – as a “new competitive landscape”, which evolved after widespread industry consolidation. As a result, he said, the perennial era of “all savings and more” being passed on to shippers was over.

Mr Jensen said Zim’s Q2 results were “re-confirmation of the financial strength among the large global container carriers. Their total volume loss of 12.3% was slightly more than the global market decline of 10%.”

Meanwhile, the surging freight rates seen on the transpacific trade has piqued the curiosity of China’s ministry of transport, which has reportedly written to six of the largest carriers seeking “an explanation” for the rises.

And, while rates skyrocket, schedule reliability and service levels are “extremely low,” according to Drewry.

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