Container shortage likely to continue to late spring: HMM

The South Korean container line reported a 16.3% jump in revenues to $5.44bn last year, and a record operating profit of $831.1m last year, versus a loss of $254m in 2019. HMM said net profit for 2020 was $105m against a loss of $499.8m in the previous year.

The fourth quarter of 2020 saw HMM’s operating profit more than doubling to $480.5m, with and operating margin of 28.3%, coinciding with a global surge in volumes and supply chain disruptions caused by a shortage of containers at key export ports in Asia.

The improved results for the year were realised despite an overall drop in volumes handled by the line to 3.89m teu in 2020, compared to 4.28m teu in the previous year.

In terms of the outlook HMM expects the container shortage and congestion at US west coast ports to continue for some months.

“The scarcity of containers and space on vessels will last through at least the first quarter of this year, with a likelihood that this situation continues until late spring,” HMM said.

“Supply chain disruptions led mainly by a backlog of containers and terminal congestions at several main ports are on course to remain unabated over the short term.”

In the slightly longer term Covid-19 vaccination programmes could lead to a shift in spending from products to services which would act to reduce freight rates.