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   Atlantic Container Line reported a net profit of SEK83 million ($9 million) in 2002, down 63 percent from the previous year, as it reported a “downward spiral” in transatlantic freight rates last year.

   Revenue also decreased to SEK2.7 billion ($307 million) from SEK3 billion in 2001.

   Earnings before interest and tax fell 67 percent to SEK121 million ($14 million) from SEK370 million in 2001.

   “Despite the poor market conditions, I am pleased to report that ACL has once again managed to be one of the few carriers in the world to return a profit to its shareholders,” said Olav Rakkenes, former president and chief executive officer, in the company’s annual report. He described 2002 as “one of the toughest years in liner shipping history.”

   Most liner shipping companies have suffered decreases in their profit results last year, with some reporting losses running into hundreds of million of dollars.

   Rakkenes said ACL was able to “weather the storm” in 2002, and has increased its cargo carryings, cut costs, and reduced its cargo imbalance. ACL’s imbalance as a percentage of its total volume in the stronger westbound direction dropped from 35 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2001, and again to 14 percent in 2002. The company’s vessel utilization improved last year, to 74 percent, from 70 percent in 2001.

   Last November, ACL purchased a ship for the first time in many years: the 20,700 gross-registered-ton roll-on/roll-off multipurpose vessel “Grande Argentina.” The carrier, whose fleet is based on ro/ro-containerships built in the mid-1980s, plans to acquire another vessel this year.

   ACL carried the equivalent of about 228,000 TEUs in 2002, including ro/ro and car traffic, a 4-percent increase over 2001. ACL said container rate levels “deteriorated significantly” in 2002, but ro/ro and car rates remained stable. Overall, freight rates for ACL were about 10 percent lower than in 2001.

   Commenting on the business environment in 2002, ACL said that rate levels in its core North Atlantic market “went into a downward spiral, as carriers with increased capacity tried to fill their empty slots at any price.”

   ACL carries ro/ro cargoes, including cars, as well as breakbulk and project cargoes in the North American trades with northern Europe, the Mediterranean and West Africa.

   The carrier said it has further increased its cooperation with Grimaldi, the Italian shipping group that owns about 94 percent of the company. On Jan. 1 of this year, ACL switched the currency used for its accounting reports from the Swedish kronor to the euro. Three senior Grimaldi executives now sit on the board of directors of ACL.

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