In a recent study conducted by Sea-Intelligence, it was revealed that the liner shipping industry experienced a staggering increase in Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) within the past three years, surpassing the total profits of the previous 63 years combined. The liners sector achieved an EBIT of $208 billion in 2022, building upon the $164 billion and $24 billion in 2021 and 2020, respectively. Sea-Intelligence's latest weekly report indicates that these record-breaking operating profits have set a new benchmark in the history of container shipping by sea, which began with the maiden voyage of the first container ship.
As 2023 unfolds, experts remain divided on the profitability of liner shipping. British consultancy firm Drewry anticipates a profit of $15 billion for the sector in its annual container forecast report. In contrast, Blue Alpha Capital projects a double-digit net profit margin to revenue for carriers, albeit with aggregate quarterly profit levels dipping below the fourth quarter of 2022.
Container transport indices have experienced a downward trend in recent months, with no clear indication that the market has reached its lowest point. Peter Sand, a lead analyst at freight platform Xeneta, shared with Splash earlier this month that 2023 is expected to be a year of carriers addressing excess capacity. Shipping companies are likely to employ defensive strategies such as blank sailing, hot and cold disarmament, and eventual demolition to tackle the issue. Moreover, the latest data from Clarksons Research reveals that the average speed of cargo ships has already declined by 3.5% compared to 2022.