Thoresen Shipping continued to make healthy profits in the first quarter despite a significant easing of freight rates during the low season.

The Thai-backed supramax bulker specialist reported a net profit of THB 1.3bn ($37.3m) for the first three months of 2022 in figures released Wednesday.

This was down 23% on the THB 1.6bn seen in the preceding three months, but a more than six-fold increase on the THB 205bn seen in the corresponding period last year.

Revenue for the quarter was THB 1.4bn, down 25% on the fourth quarter of 2021 but more than three times the revenue seen 12 months earlier.

Supramax freight rates averaged $25,156 per day in the first quarter, a 51% year-on-year increase, but 17% weaker quarter-on-quarter, Thoresen said.

The shipowner said the recent steep spike in bunker prices had put pressure on earnings during the quarter, but this had been compensated by the gain from bunker swap agreements.

Meanwhile, vessel operating expenses remained low at $4,048 per day, which Thoresen said was 11% lower than industry operating expenses of $4,553 per day.

The Baltic Supramax Index (BSI) averaged 2,287 points in the first quarter of 2022, a significant increase from the average of 1,512 points seen 12 months ago, but down from 2,771 points in the fourth quarter of 2021 mainly due to the Lunar New Year celebration, according to Clarksons.

However, the index rebounded in mid-February as minor bulk demand remained firm, while ongoing port congestion continued to disrupt the supply of tonnage.

Clarksons says the minor bulk trades are less exposed to the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict due to the diversity of trade in both commodities and major trading countries.

At the end of the first quarter, Thoresen’s owned fleet stood at 24 vessels made up of 22 supramaxes and two ultramaxes with an average size of 55,913 dwt and an average age of 14 years.

“Despite the low season in the first quarter, we managed to deliver a strong net profit,” said Chalermchai Mahagitsiri, president and chief executive of parent company Thoresen Thai Agencies.

“With the high time charter equivalent rate and consistently low vessel operating expenses, the shipping segment’s performance remained robust.

“The outlook for the full-year 2022 seems moderately balanced, Clarksons forecasts dry bulk trade growth of 1.6% in ton-miles … while fleet expansion is projected at 2.2% in deadweight ton terms.”