Europe News

Worst is over, but so are the glory days: Maersk CFO

ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images

The glory days might be over for the shipping industry, but there are reasons for optimism, the chief financial officer of shipping giant Maersk Line told CNBC.

"We never know how the future will look and if you look at the recent past we have seen very, very low container growth demand over the last four quarters. But there have been small, encouraging pick-up signs particularly in the second quarter getting into the third quarter," Jakob Strausholm told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday.

Despite the slow recovery, Stausholm said that there were "much more positive signs than negative" for the next three to six months, giving the company confidence. "The worst is over and we're getting somewhat out of a cycle of decline in world trade growth," Strausholm said.

Maersk Line is the global container division and the largest operating unit of the Danish shipping group Moeller Maersk, the largest container shipper company in the world.

Stausholm's optimism for the future follows a tough period for the company and shipping industry as a whole.

(Read more: Shipping industry not outof danger yet: Analyst)

The container shipping sector has been dogged by overcapacity issues since the economic crisis caused demand to decline. Subsequently, freight rates fell, hitting shipping lines' revenues hard.

Overcapacity issues were exacerbated by the fact that many shipping companies had ordered new ships during better economic times. Maersk was no exception and it took 21 percent of its ships on the Asia-Europe route out of service as a result.

However, speaking in Copenhagen last week, Strausholm told investors and analysts that the world would emerge from the downturn in the next two years and that the demand for global containers would grow by 4 to 6 percent in 2014 and 2015, up from recent forecasts of 2-3 percent for this year.

Putting its money where its mouth is, Maersk launched the world's biggest container ship last week, the Maersk McKinney Moller. Strausholm defended bringing new ships into service despite a slow global economic recovery and uptick in demand.

"We have actually had very few additions to the fleet but, yes, we have ordered some tremendous new ships. Over two and half years we will get 20 mega ships that can take in excess of 18,000 containers each."

He conceded that the glory days for container shipping were gone, however, and that global demand growth of 8 to 10 percent in the container sector would not be seen again.

"We probably have an industry issue of ordering too many containers and that has a lot to do with how we in the industry have viewed the outlook. We have looked at the longer term at container demand and have come to the conclusion that the good days from before the crisis in 2007 will not return [but] the container market is a good market and there are some really good supporting factors."

With the Maersk McKinney Moller consuming 35 percent less fuel and with 16 percent more capacity than the company's previously largest vessel, the ship is an attempt to increase efficiency and profitability.

The company also announced that it would be forging an operational alliance with two of its two biggest rivals, Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM, on a number of sea routes.

Despite the alliance, the companies would remain "fierce" competitors, Strausholm said.

"What we're doing, as other industries have done, is to share infrastructure. We will build a network where we will use each other's vessels which will lead to lower costs, a bigger network and a better offering to customers. It's about utilizing our fleet in a more efficient way, independent of whether we have poor or good economic conditions."

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt

Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld