Before the pandemic, the container-shipping industry was floundering. There were too many ships and not enough boxes to move. Not anymore. On Wednesday AP Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest container-shipping line, reported its best ever first-quarter profits. Its boss, Soren Skou, credited soaring freight rates which, according to an index produced by Freightos, an online marketplace, have tripled over the past year. These were thought at first to be a blip. It was expected that demand created by a post-pandemic restocking boom, a pile-up of empty containers in the wrong ports and the blockage of the Suez Canal by Ever Given in March would wane quickly.
But demand and freight rates may rise higher still. Even with America’s ports running at maximum capacity, there are no signs yet of unsold imports piling up. And most consumers are yet to go on the spending spree expected after lockdowns lift. It is no wonder Mr Skou predicts freight rates, and profits, will remain high throughout 2021.