DP World, one of the world's largest port operators, posted a 2.6 per cent increase in gross container shipping volumes in the fourth quarter of 2021, with a strong increase in annual throughput expected to drive improved financial results.
The Dubai-based ports company handled 19.6 million 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, across its global portfolio of container terminals in the final quarter of 2021, up from 19 million TEUs in the same quarter a year ago, it said in a statement to Nasdaq Dubai on Monday.
"As expected, growth rates moderated in the final quarter of 2021 as the new Covid variant [Omicron], inflation and supply chain bottlenecks impacted global growth," Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World's chairman and chief executive, said.
Global supply chain disruptions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to linger for years until the backlog of cargo is cleared, Mr bin Sulayem said last month. The Covid-19 crisis highlighted significant challenges in the logistics sector, with many cargo owners struggling to find containers to move their goods to keep pace with demand and overcome labour disruptions.
The acute supply chain bottlenecks have led to congestion and delays at ports, a shortage in shipping containers and a sharp rise in the cost of shipping goods.
The ports operator reported a 9.4 per cent rise in 2021 container volumes, despite growth rates moderating in the fourth quarter, with all the regions it operates in reporting growth.
DP World handled 77.9 million TEUs last year across its global portfolio, up from 71.1 million TEUs in 2020, with Asia Pacific, India, the Americas and Australia regions recording double-digit growth. Its flagship Jebel Ali port in the UAE handled 13.7 million TEUs in 2021, up 1.9 per cent year-on-year.
"Overall, we are pleased with the business performance in 2021 and remain focused on growing profitability while managing growth capex," Mr bin Sulayem said. "The strong volume performance leaves us well placed to deliver an improved set of full-year results."
Looking into 2022, the chairman said he expects the DP World portfolio to continue delivering growth and sees an encouraging start to the year.
"We remain mindful that the Covid-19 pandemic, continued supply chain disruptions, rising inflation and geopolitical uncertainty could continue to hinder the global economic recovery," he said.
The International Monetary Fund lowered its global economic growth forecast for this year, as Omicron continues to spread unabated and supply chain disruptions stoke inflation amid higher energy prices.
The fund, which estimated the global economy would expand by 5.9 per cent in 2021, revised down its 2022 output projections to 4.4 per cent, half a percentage point lower than its estimate in October, it said in its latest World Economic Outlook in January.