HAPAG-Lloyd’s results for the first three quarters of 2023 showed a decline in revenue, earnings and profits on the back of static volumes, due to what the company called a “severe change in market conditions”.

The ocean carrier reported its total profit for the group was US$3.425 billion, down from US$14.665 billion over the first nine months of 2022. Over the same period the company’s revenues tumbled 86% to US$15.3 billion, and its EBIT plummeted 80% to US$2.989 billion.

These declines came despite relatively static transport volume at 8916 TTEU for the first nine months of 2023 – which was down just slightly from 8987 TTEU in the same period last year.

Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben Jansen said volumes were roughly flat for the first nine months of 2023, compared with the same period last year, thanks to an increase in volumes in the third quarter.

“At the same time, we have continued to implement our strategic agenda, expanded our terminal portfolio, and boosted customer satisfaction again through quality improvements. However, freight rates are below the prior-year level and, as expected, fell again in the third quarter – which is reflected in much lower earnings,” Mr Jansen said.

“In response, we are working hard to reduce our expenses even more, such as by achieving savings on the procurement side and making adjustments to our service network. Nevertheless, if spot rates do not recover, we could face some challenging quarters in this subdued market environment.”

For the full year 2023, Hapag-Lloyd has made the forecast it published on 2 March more specific. EBITDA is now expected to be in the range of US$4.5 billion to 5.5 billion and EBIT to be in the range of US$2.4 billion to 3.4 billion.

The company said its forecast is subject to uncertainty given the many geopolitical conflicts, persistent inflationary pressures, and the continued high inventory levels of many customers.

Hapag-Lloyd is the fifth-largest ocean carrier, with 7% of the global container carrying capacity, according to Alphaliner. Hapag-Lloyd has a total carrying capacity of 1.966 million TEU and a fleet of 266 owned and chartered ships.