SOUTH Korean carrier HMM is aiming to become a logistics business to underpin its rapid expansion strategy, following in the footsteps of some of its peers, including Danish shipping giant Maersk.

HMM CEO Jae Hoon Bae told staff in a New Year message that the carrier “should not limit itself” to the liner sector, but develop its interest in “comprehensive logistics” to build a bigger future.

The carrier is expected to record its first annual profit for 2020 after racking up US$3.5 billion of losses over the previous five years.

And although ocean carriers all enjoyed a year of record profitability despite the threat posed by the pandemic, HMM has, arguably, been the biggest winner.

The delivery of twelve 24,000 TEU ULCVs this year boosted its fleet by 330,000 TEU, to 719,000 TEU, to take HMM from 10th to 8th in the fleet capacity rankings, elevating it above THE Alliance partner Yang Ming with its fleet of 621,000 TEU.

Receiving the first ULCVs in the midst of the Covid lockdowns and collapse in global demand appeared to be unfortunate timing. However, with the subsequent unexpected sharp recovery, HMM’s new ships were soon fully utilised with high-paying freight.

The carrier will receive a further eight 16,000 TEU ships in the first half of this year, and market chatter is that it will shortly place new orders with South Korean yards for a range of newbuilds to hit its target of a million TEU capacity, reports The Loadstar, UK.

Mr Bae said: “2020 has been a truly meaningful year for us. Accordingly, we need to work closely with THE Alliance to be able to respond quickly to market changes and to establish a foundation for continued profit generation by improving the quality of our global network and services for shippers.”

Meanwhile, THE Alliance lead line Hapag-Lloyd has confirmed an order for six 23,000 TEU-plus ULCVs, and fellow member ONE has signed a 15-year charter with Japanese non-operating shipowner Shoei Kisen Kaisha for six ULCVs of up to 24,000 TEU. The vessels will be delivered in 2023 and will all be deployed on THE Alliance’s Asia-North Europe network.

Alphaliner speculated that this could “effectively represent a new string for the alliance”, which would assist with HMM’s ambitious growth plans.