Mr Habben Jansen made the remark during his third-quarter overview which had a familiar refrain, one likely to be heard again after the fourth quarter.
Hapag-Lloyd is scheduled to release its third-quarter figures November 12, and Mr Habben Jansen did not open the ledger during a recent virtual chat with the media. His only reference to Q3 financials came when addressing supply chain bottlenecks.
'Once the data come out for the third quarter of 2021, I do not think that we will see massive growth compared to [Q2 year over year] simply because the supply chains at the moment are so much clogged up and we have so many ships waiting outside of the ports,' he said.
Hapag-Lloyd did experience massive second-quarter growth year over year. Q2 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation was US$2.3 billion, an astonishing $1.5 billion gain from the $770 million reported in the second quarter of 2020. Revenue shot up 70 per cent, from $3.3 billion in Q2 2020 to $5.6 billion this year.
Hapag-Lloyd reported first-half 2021 EBITDA of $4.2 billion, a giant leap from $1.2 billion in 2020, and group profit of $3.3 billion, up from $2.9 billion the year before.
'Revenues increased in the first-half year of 2021 by approximately 51 per cent, to $10.6 billion, mainly because of a 46 per cent higher average freight rate of $1,1612 per TEU. The freight rate development was the result of high demand combined with scarce transport capacities and severe infrastructural bottlenecks,' Hapag-Lloyd said.
'While demand remains high in the current congested market environment, it is leading to a shortage of available weekly transportation capacity. For this reason, Hapag-Lloyd expects earnings to remain strong in the second half of the fiscal year,' it said.
Full-year EBITDA is forecast in the range of $9.2 billion to $11.2 billion.
'We've certainly seen strong demand on the back of the economic upturn and in the course of the first half. As far as we can see right now, we do expect that to continue. We still see today that demand is very strong on most trades, even if it's definitely driven still very much by the US, because that's where we see the strongest increases, on the trans-Pacific. And if we look at the last couple of months, also the Atlantic has been very strong,' Mr Habben Jansen said.
'The difficulty that we of course all face at this point in time - and that's not a secret - this strong demand, combined with a whole bunch of Covid-related restrictions and unexpected surge in volume, has led to quite a lot of difficulties in the supply chain.'
Those difficulties include the lack of available containers. 'The worst numbers we have seen so far were in the month of August, where the time that it takes us to get a container back is up about 20 per cent, which also means that we need 20 per cent more containers than we normally need to transport the same amount of volume.
'The same goes for voyage delays,' he said. 'We also have seen these delays go up, and if we look at the situation today, we are probably in the peak of the problems. The already congested supply chain is getting congested even further.'
'If we look at the United States, that's probably where we still have most of the difficulties, not only in LA/Long Beach but also in other ports on the West Coast, but also increasingly at ports on the East Coast, where places like Savannah and New York are heavily congested.'
Mr Habben Jansen said, 'On average it takes us today 10 to 15 days longer before we get the box back. That in reality also means that there are quite a few TEU globally that are currently somewhere in the supply chain that actually should already be at the warehouses of many of the customers.'
He reiterated that port congestion is not limited to the United States. 'On a global basis, we see that pretty much every ship in the Hapag-Lloyd network needs to wait longer before it gets into any port. Those are significant effects.'
The supply chain problems extend beyond ports, Mr Habben Jansen noted. 'Let's not forget that these difficulties are in many cases not limited to the ports only, but we also have bottlenecks on inland transportation. The most obvious bottlenecks, they're definitely in the US, but also in places like the UK, and in some places in Europe we also see that shortage of available inland capacity [is] prominent.'
He said Hapag-Lloyd has 'implemented quite a lot of countermeasures to try and limit the impact on our customers and also to improve service quality.'
'We tried to move capacity to those places where it is needed the most. We've also tried to reroute cargo to alternative gateways because sometimes it is better to go to another port if you can berth there upon arrival rather than wait outside for a couple of days. We bought second-hand tonnage, we chartered extra ships, we deployed extra loaders. And we have ordered, in particular, a large number of additional containers,' the CEO said.
This past spring Hapag-Lloyd ordered standard and refrigerated boxes to carry 210,000 TEU to combat 'severe imbalances' caused by the shortage of containers around the world.