Soaring freight rates and buoyant trade helped Orient Overseas Container Line post double-digit growth in revenue and container volumes in the first three months of this year.
The shipping company said revenues climbed 17.2 per cent to US$1.33 billion for the January-March period from US$1.13 billion a year earlier. The growth partly reflected the 12.6 per cent rise in cargo volumes to 1.18 million 20-foot equivalent units (teu) seen in the first quarter of 2011.
But the company also instituted several rate increases from October and January, including on Asia-Australia services, which helped boost freight rates.
Consequently, revenue on intra-Asia and Australia services climbed 22.5 per cent to US$421.95 million, while there was a 17.1 per cent increase to 597,233 teu in the number of containers handled on the trade.
In comparison with these figures, container shipping companies witnessed an average 10-20 per cent increase in intra-Asia freight rates over the same period, said Peter Sand, a shipping analyst with the Baltic and International Maritime Council whose 900 shipowner members control about 66 per cent of the world's merchant fleet.
In cargo terms, intra-Asia and Australia was the largest market for OOCL in the first quarter. But the transpacific trade was the biggest revenue earner for the company after it saw a 23.3 per cent surge in revenue to US$473.43 million on the back of a 9.7 per cent increase in container volumes to 296,433 teu.
There was also a 22 per cent increase in revenue on transatlantic services to US$156.55 million, significantly higher than the 4.3 per cent rise in container volumes to 90,937 teu over the period.
But reflecting the competitiveness, on Asia-Europe routes OOCL saw revenue edge up just 0.2 per cent to US$277.84 million despite an 8.3 per cent rise to 196,174 teu in the number of containers transported on the trade.
Overall, average revenue per teu increased 4.2 per cent in the first quarter from last year.
The Tung family-controlled shipping company has bucked the general industry trend by being able to increase revenue when 'container rates have been sliding on all the major trading lanes since July 2010', according to Sand.