Now profitable, ONE expands reefer fleet

Ocean Network Express (ONE), which last week announced it had turned a profit, said Tuesday it was expanding its refrigerated container fleet by 5,000 40-foot units.

Two hundred of those units will be equipped with advanced controlled atmosphere technology, said Singapore-based ONE, which said it already has one of the largest state-of-the-art reefer fleets and procured 6,000 units last year.

Global refrigerated container volume grew by more than 7% in 2019, according to ONE, which said that despite challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the forecast for the global reefer trade remains strong, especially for protein and fresh fruits.

ONE said it is working toward applying the latest internet of things technology to its reefer fleet to allow for real-time visibility of such critical information as temperature and humidity.

Last week ONE said it had achieved synergies of more than $1 billion since it began sailing in early 2018 through such means as reduced overhead costs and network optimization. It became the world’s sixth-largest container carrier with the combination of three Japanese ocean liner companies — Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (“K” Line). ONE reported Thursday that it had turned a fiscal-year 2019 profit of $105 million and dug out from a fiscal-year loss of $586 million in 2018.

ONE’s fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31. In April 2019, the company said it had experienced “teething problems” in its first year of operations but that the loss was better than the $594 million hole it had expected. At that time, ONE forecast turning a fiscal-year 2019 profit of $85 million.

Revenue for the 2019 fiscal year grew by $985 million, from $10.88 billion in 2018 to $11.86 billion, a 9.1% improvement.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted post-Lunar New Year liftings more than originally forecast. ONE said a crisis management committee was set up in late January and a business continuity plan was activated country by country to maintain ship operations and container flow. More sailings also were canceled to meet declining cargo demand.

ONE said because of the pandemic, it cannot forecast the full-year 2020 performance.

ONE’s chief executive officer is Jeremy Nixon, who previously was CEO of NYK Group South Asia’s global liner management division. Nixon, who left Maersk Line in 2008 to join NYK, was touted at the time of his appointment to lead ONE in July 2017 as the highest-ranking non-Japanese executive to ever serve at any of the three carriers forming the joint venture.

ONE, a member of THE Alliance with HMM, Hapag-Lloyd and Yang Ming, this week is deploying the Seaspan Oceania, a vessel with a capacity of 8,468 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), on the North Europe-Asia trade to retrieve empty containers. The Seaspan Oceania was expected to start loading containers at the Port of Antwerp in Belgium on Tuesday and then continue to the Port of Rotterdam. Discharge of the containers at the Port of Yantian in China was expected to take place in mid-June.

As of the end of March, ONE had a total fleet of 222 vessels with a total capacity of 1,571,294 TEUs.