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Chris Bryant

Want to Slash Billions Off Your Tax Bill? Buy a Container Ship

Container lines are making record profits, but state coffers are being short-changed.

Shipping profits are piling up.

Shipping profits are piling up.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Europe wants US tech giants to pay more taxes, but it’s been oddly reticent about the cosy and highly unusual tax arrangements of one of its own dominant industries: container shipping. Given the outsized profits the industry is generating, the current regime is unsustainable. 

Freight rates have soared in the past two years as pandemic disruption and surging U.S. demand clogged up global ports. Europe has four of the world’s top five container lines, and some have amassed record profits while shortchanging taxpayers.