Maersk has made record profits during the disruption © Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency/Getty Images
Maersk has made record profits during the disruption © Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Supply bottlenecks to last 'at least' into first quarter of 2022

3 November 2021

The world’s biggest shipping company Maersk has warned supply chain issues will continue into next year as it reported record profits.  

Maersk almost quintupled its operating profits in the third quarter to $5.9bn compared with $947m a year ago – more than it has made in any quarter since 2014.

Freight rates on average increased 50% year-on-year after demand for transport freight surged as the world economy gained momentum following the pandemic. 

Maersk said it had added more capacity to meet the rising demand. 

However, congestion at ports meant that third-quarter container volumes were 4% lower than during the same period in 2019

Maersk said in a third quarter Interim Report: “The current conditions are expected to continue at least into the first quarter of 2022.

“Supplier delivery times remain lengthy, and there is little visibility into when capacity constraints, including landside bottlenecks in trucking and warehousing, will abate.”

Global shipping has been rocked after a sharp increase in demand following early lockdowns in the pandemic led to surging container costs. 

A shortfall of HGV drivers and labour shortages across ports has led to long delays in unloading containers, causing bottlenecks at ports across the globe. 

Maersk estimated approximately 300 container ships are currently waiting outside ports across the globe. Almost 80 of these are situated outside the port of Los Angeles, with others docked outside Felixstowe in the UK and Chinese ports including Shanghai and Ningbo.

Maersk continued: “The supplyside of the logistics industry continued to be disrupted by Covid-19 and capacity shortages: container availability and air capacity remained tight, wait times for vessels outside of ports remained lengthy given the bottlenecks in landside transportation and warehousing. 

“This has resulted in shortages and challenged supply chain management services and thus driving up prices.”

It said trading conditions were “subject to a higher-than-normal uncertainty” due to the “temporary nature of current demand patterns and disruptions in the supply chains”.

Maersk previously said it had stopped sending container freight to the Port of Felixstowe in the UK – which is responsible for almost 40% of the country’s freight container traffic – amid a backlog of up to 50,000 empty containers.

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