Port update

The State Ports Authority is expected to look back at its last fiscal year at its monthly board meeting Wednesday in Charleston.

Among other items, the agenda includes a detailed review of how the SPA performed financially in fiscal 2014, which ended June 30.

The SPA previously released figures about cargo volume for the past year. It said it handled the equivalent of nearly 1.68 million 20-foot-long shipping containers through June 30, up 8 percent from the previous 12-month period. The increase beat expectations by 2 percent

The largest ocean carriers serving the Port of Charleston include Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The world's largest shipping company and big player on the Charleston waterfront says it is sending more containers around the world, a sign that global trade - and possibly economic growth - is picking up.

A.P. Moller-Maersk, which investors monitor as a bellwether for world trade, on Tuesday lifted its earnings outlook on the back of an increase in freight volumes, a promising development at a time when a major economy like China is slowing and much of Europe remains stagnant.

The Danish group said shipping volumes rose 6.6 percent in the second quarter, one of several factors that caused its net profit to more than triple to $2.3 billion.

Its Maersk Line shipping unit is one of the largest ocean carriers serving the Port of Charleston.

A.P. Moller-Maersk CEO Nils S. Andersen noted the profits were "achieved in challenging markets" and helped by cost cuts and a profit on the sale of a majority stake in the company's retail business.

But the figures are likely to support expectations of a pickup in global trade this year from a weak level in 2013. The World Trade Organization in April forecast trade will grow by 4.7 percent, more than double last year's 2.1 percent but still short of the 20-year average of 5.3 percent.

Maersk did not specify in what regions its maritime activity is growing, but the WTO sees trade increasing in the United States, some parts of Europe and many developing countries.

The Copenhagen-based group, which also has operations in the oil and drilling industry, said its overall revenues rose to $12 billion in the three-month period that ended June 30 from $11 billion a year earlier.

As a result, it now expects its profit for 2014 to be "significantly above" the 2013 result of $3.8 billion. When not counting one-time gains or charges, it expects profit to be $4.5 billion, up from expectations of $4 billion.

Despite the improvements, Maersk said it had to keep focusing on cutting costs.

The company this year sought to create an alliance of the world's three biggest container shipping operators. The deal to set up an independently operated network of 255 vessels in late 2014 was scrapped, however, due to opposition by Chinese authorities.

Instead of that deal, Maersk's shipping division in July entered a 10-year vessel-sharing agreement with the world's second-largest carrier, Mediterranean Shipping Co., on key routes across the Atlantic, Pacific and between Europe and Asia.

Like Maersk, Switzerland-based MSC is a large carrier at the Port of Charleston.

The Post and Courier conntributed to this report.