Matson has two segments: ocean transportation and logistics. Operating income from Matson’s ocean transportation business was $109.7 million in the third quarter of 2018, up 3.2 percent from the same period in 2017, while revenue in the ocean transportation segment was $1.22 billion in the third quarter 2018, up 3.5 percent over the same period last year.
Operating income from Matson’s logistics business was $9.9 million in the third quarter of 2018, 35.6 percent more than in the third quarter of 2017. Logistics revenue in the third quarter was $152.1 million, a 22 percent improvement over the same 2017 period.
“Our performance in the quarter was in line with our expectations with Ocean Transportation results approaching the level achieved last year and continued strong execution across all service lines in logistics,” said Matt Cox, chief executive officer of Matson.
“We expect our businesses to continue to perform well in the fourth quarter, and, as a result, we are raising our outlook for ocean transportation and maintaining our outlook for logistics,” he added. “For the full year 2018, we expect ocean transportation operating income to be modestly higher than the level achieved in 2017. For the full year 2018 in logistics, we are maintaining our higher outlook for operating income given the strong trends across all service lines.”
Last week Matson took delivery of the first of four new ships it has under construction. The 3,600-TEU Daniel K. Inouye was built at Philly Shipyard and is due to embark on its 5,298-mile, 13-day maiden voyage to Oakland, Calif., via the Panama Canal on Wednesday, before entering commercial service on Nov. 22. After a port call at Long Beach, the new vessel will make its first call at Honolulu on the morning of Nov. 28.
Matson expects its cargo volumes for the full year 2018 to be similar to those in 2017, which Cox said reflects a favorable economic backdrop and stable market share.
In Alaska, Cox said container volume was 2.2 percent in the third quarter of 2018 than in the third quarter of 2017, primarily because of lower seafood volume He said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is projecting the salmon harvest this year will be 35 percent below the bumper 2017 harvest.
While Matson is best known for its Jones Act services to Hawaii and Alaska, it also operates a premium service from China on the eastbound return leg of a string of ships that travel first westbound from Long Beach to Hawaii and Guam, return to Long Beach after picking up Chinese exports to the U.S. in Xiamen, Ningbo, and Shanghai.
Cox said that while nearly 20 percent of the goods that Matson transports from China are subject to the tariffs that the U.S. has imposed on Chinese imports, to date Matson has not seen any meaningful import from the tariffs on its business.
Cox said that Matson, which has installed scrubbers on three ships that are in its service to Alaska, plans to install scrubbers on three of the five ships in its CLX service that calls Hawaii, Guam and China.
That means six of what he called the company’s “core vessels” will be equipped with scrubbers and the company will take a “hard look” at six remaining ships (including the just delivered Inouye and the three others it has under construction).
He said the payback period for installing a scrubber is less than two years and “definitely worth $8 million to $10 million a ship” that it costs to install a scrubber.
“Given that we’re relatively small and focused, we’re going to be able to implement it in many of the other larger and perhaps less capital capable companies in implementing the scrubber strategy,” said Cox.
If their ships do not have scrubbers, Cox noted, “ocean carriers are going to be incurring additional expense” associated with having to use low-sulfur fuel to comply with International Maritime Organization rules that go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
He said it is not clear, given the international shipping industry’s track record, whether they will be able to pass through the higher cost to shippers.
“In my mind, it’s primarily a function of whether or not the international ocean carriers can manage the supply and demand adequately to allow for those factors to be in balance and create somewhat more orderly market that would allow for those incremental fuel surcharges to be implemented,” said Cox. “To the extent that they can’t do that, then I think they’re in for a world of hurt in managing that additional cost burden.”