Breakbulk Carrier Transatlantic Slumps to Loss

Breakbulk Carrier Transatlantic Slumps to Loss

Swedish ship-owner Transatlantic AB swung to an operating loss of $30.3 million in 2009 from a year earlier profit of $36.4 million on sharply lower volume and freight rates in its core breakbulk and roll-on, roll-off markets.

Revenue shrunk to $313 million from $363 million as traffic slumped by up to 50 percent in some cargo sectors and freight rates were at a third of their level two years ago.

"Despite major efforts to identify new cargo, new service patterns and lower costs, the results for 2009 were unsatisfactory," said Stefan Eliasson, acting chief executive officer of the Stockholm-listed company.

But the carrier, which operates scheduled container services in the North Sea, contract breakbulk services in the Baltic and the Mediterranean and a ro-ro line between northern Europe and the U.S. East Coast, increased traffic in the fourth quarter.

"We believe that the market has stabilized and will slowly improve during 2010," said Eliasson.

"Efforts to reduce our costs in all parts of the group continue, and I look confidently toward the coming year," he said.

Ro-ro shipments in Baltic Sea were broadly unchanged from 2008, and container traffic to Hamburg and Bremerhaven grew in the final quarter on higher stainless steel exports.

Traffic weakened on the eastbound and westbound Atlantic routes as excess paper pulp production built up "major" newsprint inventories in northern Europe and the United States.

Low freight volume prompted Transatlantic, which operates 35 vessels, to lay up two ships and charter out a third vessel on the spot market.

The offshore/icebreaking unit reported lower earnings as offshore rates retreated from record levels in 2008.

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