Maersk adjusts course

Container shipping lines are responding to the recession in different ways. Some are struggling to survive. Others, such as market leader Maersk Line, are using the downturn to restructure themselves for the eventual recovery. Wednesday's Financial Times has a couple of interesting articles based on an interview with A.P. Moller-Maersk CEO Nils Andersen, now two years on the job. Some highlights:

--Maersk has identified three areas outside its core shipping interests as priorities for future investment. these areas are oil and gas, container terminals and retailing (Maersk owns stakes in the company that runs two supermarketts and two department stores).

--Maersk will continue to treat key business units such as APM Terminals and the Damco third-party logistics business as independent units, not adjuncts of container shipping --"It improves accountability a lot and makes the business a lot more flexible..."

--Andersen concedes that like most other lines, Maersk probably overinvested in new ships at the peak of the pre-recession market, even though the 8 to 10 percent annual growth rates provided a rationale for the spending. But he said Maersk's capacity on order totals only 20 percent of its existing fleet, compared with an average of 40 percent for other lines.

--He said container shipping will eventually become a money-maker for Maersk again -- "I don't see any reason that we should not be able to turn this business round and make it a very profitable part of the group."

For the full story: Log In, Register for Free or Subscribe