Mitsui OSK Lines has seen its third-quarter net profit slump by almost 60% on the back of continued weakness in the liner market.

The Japanese shipowner said net income for the three months ended 31 December 2023 was ¥52.8bn ($357.6m) against the ¥121.7bn seen 12 months ago.

The weaker result came despite the company reporting its strongest quarterly revenue for the financial year at ¥1.22 trillion.

MOL’s containership arm slumped to a loss of ¥3.3bn for the quarter, reversing a profit of ¥71.5bn seen in the third quarter of last year. However, revenue was largely unchanged at ¥14.2bn.

The shipowner attributed the sharp decrease in profit at its liner arm due to drops in spot and term contract freight rates.

“In the third quarter, the spot freight rates remained low due to the reduced cargo movements with sluggish consumption and the beginning of the off-peak season, while the supply and demand trend continued to soften due to increased new vessel deliveries,” MOL said.

The shipowner made little reference in its results statement on the impact the crisis in the Red Sea was having on its business other than to say that it expects to secure a “certain profit level, due to the recent situation in the Middle East”.

This contrasts with German rival Hapag-Lloyd which yesterday reported a wider-than-expected fourth-quarter operating loss due to lower transport volumes following the attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

“The conflict in the Red Sea negatively impacted transport volumes at the end of the year, as the rerouting of ships around the Cape of Good Hope extended voyage times,” Hapag-Lloyd said as it released preliminary results for 2023.

MOL’s energy business, which includes its tanker, gas, coal carrier and offshore wind sectors, posted a near 60% increase in third-quarter profit on the back of the strength in the VLCC market.

“Market rates for VLCCs remained strong as oil prices remained relatively low despite Opec+ production cuts and demand for shipments from the US remained stable,” MOL said.

“Product tanker and chemical tanker market rates remained high, and the tanker business as a whole posted a year-on-year increase in profit exceeding earlier forecasts.”

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, MOL is forecasting further declines in net from which is expected to slide to ¥31.3bn taking its full year forecast to ¥235bn, ¥15bn higher than its earlier forecast.