Optimism on the high seas as freight shipping rebounds

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The Independent Online

The world's largest container shipping company and one of the biggest ports operators provided an optimistic snapshot of global trade, saying that the volume of goods carried on the high seas had continued its rebound from the depths of the recession.

AP Moeller-Maersk, the Danish container shipping line, said it was back in the black in the first half of the year, and it bolstered believers in the economic recovery by raising full-year forecasts, too. The company said it had started redeploying mothballed vessels in the second quarter.

The volume of freight carried by its ships in the six months to 30 June was up by 11 per cent compared with the same period last year, and the rates it was able to charge surged 31 per cent.

The spike in demand has been so strong that there is now a shortage of containers across the industry, a problem expected to persist until suppliers fill orders for new containers later this year. Meanwhile, DP World, the international ports operator controlled by the government of Dubai, said it handled 7 per cent more containers in the first half. Net income from continuing operations rose to $206m from $188m a year ago, outstripping analysts' forecasts by one third.

Demand for shipping goods around the world reflects the vigour – or lack of it – of world trade. The outlook for the two companies appeared more upbeat than that reflected in the Baltic Dry Index, an estimate of the cost of shipping commodities and manufactured goods, which is closely tracked by financial market investors. The index has been volatile this year and remains below its level at the end of 2009.

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