Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller Maersk AS, parent of Maersk Line, the world’s largest container ship operator, has reported its first annual loss—estimated at US$1.31 billion—since its founding in 1904. Although A.P. Moller Maersk ancillary business units such as oil and gas remained profitable last year, Maersk Line saw container shipping revenue fall 31.7% in the first nine months of last year, due to the slump in global trade. The company expects to see a slight rebound in 2010.
Although most maritime freight carriers have slashed operating costs by cutting staff and reducing ship speeds, as much as 12% of the world’s freight shipping fleet is now estimated to lay idle, in part because many carriers invested heavily in new ships during the strong economic growth of the last decade. Maersk will now focus on “backhaul” routes, shipping empty containers back to manufacturing regions, in addition to the more profitable “fronthaul” routes.
Maersk also announced that it would set a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% per container shipped in 2017, as compared to 2007. The company is experimenting with a 5% to 7% biodiesel blend in the Maersk Kalmar, and has voiced support for an expected carbon tax to be administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as a means to spur the development of more energy-efficient ships.