2017 marks a step change in global seafreight. The longstanding trend towards consolidation in container shipping once again accelerated rapidly with takeovers and new alliances. Now just three large alliances, likely to be joined by a fourth in the course of 2018, determine the market development. In many trade lanes rate increases occurred which could only be passed on to the customers partly and with delay, especially in the first two quarters. Kuehne + Nagel’s growth in volume and productivity did not fully compensate for the margin pressure.


Kuehne + Nagel further increased its market share exceeded in 2017. The number of TEU handled by the company exceeded the 4 million mark for the second year in succession. The world no. 1 in seafreight handled 4.4 million TEU, about 300,000 more than in the previous year. This is an increase of 7.5 per cent; the overall market growth was at approximately 5 per cent. Kuehne + Nagel saw particularly strong volume increases in intra-Asian and US transport operations. In the LCL (Less-than-Container Load) business the company handled over 2 million cubic metres for the first time.

Our customers benefit from our globally available IT-based and tailor-made services. We expand our digitalised solutions and put even greater emphasis on industry-specific and integrated solutions.

Horst Joachim Schacht, Seafreight

The effects of increased freight rates were mitigated but not fully compensated by volume growth and productivity increases. High levels of data quality globally standardised and cutting-edge IT systems and interfaces that allow seamless connectivity are major factors behind the competitive edge in productivity at Kuehne + Nagel. The operational software SeaLOG was successfully implemented for seafreight imports. The company made considerable progress on integrating its systems with those of the shipping companies in 2017. Over 98 per cent of all transactions are now digital. Around a million data messages are exchanged with the shipping companies’ systems every day. Kuehne + Nagel uses big data to offer its customers innovative digital solutions that support the optimisation of their inventory management systems. 


High levels of data transparency are also of great importance in the growth market of reefer container business. Kuehne + Nagel offers a temperature monitoring system which is available online and in real-time for pharma and healthcare products and other temperature-sensitive freight. Services such as KN PharmaChain and KN FreshChain, which comply with the highest quality standards all around the world, contributed to an increase of 25 per cent in the reefer business in 2017. Industry-specific e-commerce solutions are also becoming increasingly important in seafreight. 


It is likely that the market remains challenging and freight rates high. Kuehne + Nagel’s aim is to provide its customers highly flexible services tailored to their requirements and to achieve further productivity increases. With the quality of its digital solutions, its global network and the local expertise of a total of over 9,500 seafreight experts, Kuehne + Nagel is well positioned.  


in CHF million 2017 2016 2015
Turnover 8,805 7,981 8,739
Gross profit 1,416 1,416 1,381
EBITDA 437 465 485
EBIT 414 445 459
EBIT in % of gross profit 29.2 31.4 33.2
TEU in 1,000 4,355 4,053 3,820
Number of operating staff 9,543 9,154 8,792