Global shipping lines made an operating profit of over $110 billion in 2021. Accounting for the carriers that are yet to report their figures (HMM and OOCL), we are likely looking at an additional $10-15 billion, according to the latest update by Sea-Intelligence.

"To put this into perspective, the combined 2010-2020 operating profit across all years was a combined figure of $37.54 billion. In short, the industry has tripled its operating profit in FY2021 compared to the past decade. And this is discounting MSC (privately held) and PIL (irregular updates)."

Table below shows the EBIT/TEU of the shipping lines that report on both their EBIT and global volumes for the 2010-2021 period.

"We can see the absurd nature of the supply/demand situation and the freight rate environment of 2021, dwarfing each of the previous years in terms of EBIT/TEU. The previous years are hardly relevant in context of the outsized EBIT/TEU numbers we are seeing right now. In FY2021, the smallest EBIT/TEU was recorded by Maersk of $686/TEU whereas the largest EBIT/TEU was recorded by ZIM of a staggering $1,671/TEU."

On average, six shipping lines netted an operating profit of $861/TEU, the report said.

"Putting it into perspective, in the entire last decade, the highest average EBIT/TEU of these global shipping lines was $155/TEU, and that was back in 2010."