South Korea’s HMM is cautiously positive about the near-term outlook for container shipping after posting record earnings in the first quarter.

The owner of ultra-large boxships and VLCCs said net profit was KRW 3.13 trillion ($2.43bn) to 31 March, against just KRW 154bn a year ago.

The profit margin was a whopping 64%, up from 42% in the same period of 2021.

Revenue rose 103% in record markets to KRW 4.92 trillion, from KRW 2.43 trillion last year.

Operating earnings were up threefold to KRW 3.15 trillion.

The company said the best ever quarterly performance was driven by high freight rates and efficient fleet operations.

Global trade has remained strained due to the Russia-Ukraine war and stringent lockdown measures in China, HMM added.

The uncertainties are still widespread and market volatilities are expected to continue in the coming months, the shipowner forecast.

And it said scheduled contract negotiations between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) in the US will impact global supply chains.

High inflation pressure could also negatively impact demand growth in the Asia-to-North America trade, which is HMM’s most important.

But HMM added: “However, in a sense, modest uplift in container volumes is expected, led by the easing of the lockdown in Shanghai on a gradual basis and demand for inventory replenishment in the US.”

For the whole of 2021, the owner logged earnings of KRW 5.33 trillion, a 40-fold year-on-year increase.

It has added 20 new container ships to its fleet over the past two years, including a dozen 24,000-teu giants.