K Line has made a positive financial start to 2019 reporting a return to profit in the first quarter, figures released early Wednesday show.

The smaller of Japan’s “big three” public shipowner booked a net profit of JPY 7.8bn ($72.1m) versus the loss of JPY 19.3bn seen 12 months earlier.

An improved performance at containership tie-up Ocean Network Express (ONE) was one of the main drivers behind the return to the black.

While K Line saw revenue at its containership division decline by 45% to JPY 24.6bn ordinary income shrank to a loss of just JPY 400m against a loss of JPY 16.2bn in early 2018.

There was also improved profitability at K Line’s energy transportation business which covers LNG carriers, tankers and its thermal coal carrier business.

The division saw ordinary income jump to JPY 1.8bn from the JPY 300m seen a year earlier as the company secured a number of mid- to long-term contracts.

K Line also reported improved profitability for its car carrier division due to the effects of route rationalization and rate restoration efforts.

Despite the return to profit in the first quarter, K Line has forecast a second quarter loss of JPY 800m due to extraordinary loss from liquidations and other items.

In terms of rewards for shareholders, K Line said it recognized that the resumption of dividend payments at an early stage was an "important management task".

But it said its priority is also to stabilize the company's financial strength and keep improving its financial results, so it has "therefore decided" not to pay both mid-term and full-year dividends.