FRANKFURT, May 12 (Reuters) - German container shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd reported a deeper net loss in the first quarter, citing increasing ship fuel costs and lower freight rates.
"At $313 a tonne, the average bunker price was clearly above the previous year's figure of $197 a tonne. This is the highest level seen since June 2015," it said in a statement on Friday.
Average freight rates fell $20 compared with the same 2016 quarter to $1,047/tonne in the three months.
While saying it drew support from a 6.8 percent rise in transport volumes, the Hamburg-based group said a recovery in freight rates came too late to boost January-to-March results.
The net loss for the three months came to 62.1 million euros ($67.5 million), compared with 42.8 million euros in the year-earlier period.
The group also said the merger with Arab peer UASC, which is expected to bring synergies, will close shortly.
"After the closing our priority will be to integrate UASC into Hapag-Lloyd quickly and to realise initial synergies from the merger," Chief Executive Rolf Habben Jansen said.
A vessel-pooling tie-up between Hapag-Lloyd, three Japanese competitors and Taiwanese Yang Ming - dubbed "The Alliance" - started successfully on April 1.
First-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were up 6.4 percent at 131.3 million euros. ($1 = 0.9200 euros) (Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Maria Sheahan/Keith Weir)