AP Moller-Maersk is giving all of its employees across all of its brands a surprise $1,000 Christmas bonus after a year that was hard on staff but good for the group's bottom line.

The Danish container shipping giant said the bonus is an "exceptional recognition" of its employees' "hard work and dedication" this year.

"The recognition is given on the back of a highly unusual year in which large strains have been put on employees at sea and ashore while Maersk at the same time has performed stronger than anticipated," the group said in a letter to employees that was seen by TradeWinds.

All employees are to receive the bonus, apart from students, trainees and staff who have signed a full and final settlement agreement with Maersk or its brands, the letter said.

"Let us all be reminded that being part of a large company is not always just about procedures and high standards. Global ownership advantage takes many forms," Maersk said in the letter.

TradeWinds has contacted Maersk for comment.

A very good bad year

The move emerged after Maersk upgraded its earnings forecast for the full year in November after posting strong results in the third quarter, during which earnings rose sharply.

The company expects Ebitda for the whole of 2020 in the range of $8bn and $8.5bn, before restructuring and integration costs.

Group Ebitda grew to $2.3bn during the third quarter, a 39% jump compared to the same period of 2019, while net profit rose to $947m from $520m a year earlier.

Last month, the group launched a new DKK 10bn ($1.6bn) share buy-back programme.