Maersk predicts a recovery through the rest of 2020 © Getty Images
Maersk predicts a recovery through the rest of 2020 © Getty Images

Shipping traffic 'to return to normal in early 2021'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
20 August 2020

Shipping giant Maersk expects to see container traffic return to 2019 levels in early 2021.

In an earnings call CEO Soren Skou said he expected a return to normal levels “some time in the early part of 2021”.

Skou said coronavirus had “impacted global demand significantly” in the second quarter of 2020, with April being the worst-hit month when container volumes were down 20% year-on-year.

He said: “The challenges our customers have had with their global supply chains have not been driven by an inability to get goods transported across the world, but rather a lack of inventory and single vendor reliability.”

The biggest shipping company in the world said revenues in the second quarter were $9bn, down on $9.6bn in the same period of 2019. However, profits before tax were up 25% to $1.7bn due to factors including increased freight rates and lower fuel prices.

Average freight rates increased by 6.2% in the second quarter compared to the same period of 2019.

In an earnings report Maersk said: “The global container trade declined by around 10% in Q2 2020, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic impacting both supply chain and demand.

“Container demand is expected to gradually improve sequentially in Q3 2020, although at this stage it is not possible to be precise about the development due to the uncertain impact of Covid-19 on global economies and the risk of a relapse in demand and spread of the virus.

“Container demand is projected to significantly decline in 2020 compared to 2019, but it remains difficult to predict the shape of the recovery in global trade volumes, as it will be determined by the interplay between the path of the virus and government policies in relation to the economy.”

The company expects earnings before tax for 2020 to be $6-7bn, but this “does not take into consideration a material second lockdown phase”.

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