First quarter losses were blamed on soaring energy costs and soft demand caused by Chinese New Year holiday, which shut down Chinese factories in late January.
But the first quarter also marked a time when transport volumes grew 11 per cent to more than 1.3 million TEU.
Though freight rates have increased since January, the average rate in first quarter was still five per cent lower than the previous year's figure. "The average freight rate was US$1,484 per TEU in the first quarter, down five per cent on the previous year's figure of $1,563 per TEU," the carrier said in a statement.
The world's fifth largest carrier said the fuel prices had increased 31 per cent to $667 per tonne compared to the same period of 2011. As a result, the higher bunker and other energy-related costs in the first three months "have depressed earnings by considerably more than $150 million compared with the first quarter of 2011."
In order to compensate for the increasing fuel costs, the carrier has announced new rounds of freight rate increases this month and June. However, it said: "The forthcoming price increases are not sufficient to fully offset the additional expenses currently caused by elevated bunker prices and other energy-related transport costs."