Our history

A.P. Moller - Maersk has a storied past, and we are proud of our long history. Our history is part of our platform for future success and thus intimately linked to our present activities and future goals.

1904: The company is established

Dampskibsselskabet Svendborg (The Steamship Company Svendborg) was established 16 April 1904 in the town of Svendborg. The company, the forerunner for todays A. P. Moller - Maersk, was initiated by A.P. Møller together with his father Peter Mærsk Møller. Despite initial difficulties, they managed to raise enough capital to purchase a second-hand steamer on 6 October 1904. They named the ship SVENDBORG after its hometown and the owning company.


1912: A.P. Møller establishes another shipping company

A.P. Møller was eager to expand much quicker than what the Board of The Steamship Company Svendborg would allow, so when the opportunity arose A.P. Møller founded another steamship company in 1912 (Dampskibsselskabet af 1912) to secure himself more operational independence. Due to favorable circumstances in the shipping business during the First World War, the new 1912 shipping company quickly expanded. Both companies were managed in parallel until 2003 when they merged under one name: A.P. Moller - Maersk.
'A.P. Møller'

1918: A.P. Møller’s shipyard

A.P. Møller had long fostered the idea of establishing a shipyard and thus combining shipping experience with shipbuilding. In 1918, A.P. Møller had acquired the means to establish the Odense Steel Shipyard on the island of Funen. The shipyard was a major supplier for the company, especially after 1980 when the first container ship was delivered. In 2009, it was decided that the shipyard was to be discontinued due to the competitive market. The ordering book was completed in 2012 when the final vessel from Odense Steel Shipyard was delivered.
A.P. Møller’s shipyard

1919: First office abroad

In 1919, A.P. Møller opened the first office overseas - in New York – under the name of ISMOLCO, short for the Isbrandtsen-Moller Company. This new venture was started with A.P. Møller's cousin, Hans J. Isbrandtsen, who had gained some experience from running a company with shipping and pier administration among its activities.
First office abroad

1928: First route

Our first regular liner service with monthly sailings was initiated in 1928 under the brand Maersk Line. Up until then, our focus was on the tramp trade – when a vessel operates on the spot market and has no scheduled port calls. The first voyage went from Baltimore, USA, via the Panama Canal and the United States West Coast to Asian ports. The route between USA and the Far East was the only liner service provided by Maersk Line until 1947, where new routes were established. Our first base cargo was Ford Motor Company car parts.
First Route

1940: The occupation of Denmark

On 9 April 1940, German forces occupied Denmark. The night before, A.P. Møller and his son, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller messaged all ships outside Danish territory to head for neutral ports and to take no further orders from Copenhagen. During the war, 36 out of 46 ships were requisitioned by the warring countries and used in the war effort; 150 seamen and 25 ships were lost.
The occupation of Denmark

1955: The Maersk blue

The light blue colour was first introduced as the background colour for the seven-pointed star back in 1886, when the Maersk logo was used for the first time. The new-build REGINA MÆRSK delivered from Odense Steel Shipyard in 1955, became the first Maersk vessel to have the light blue colour painted on the hull. The new appearance was positively received and within a few years the entire Maersk fleet was painted in a light blue colour.
The Maersk blue

1962: Concession in Denmark

In 1962, A.P. Møller and the Steamship Companies Svendborg and 1912 were granted sole concession for exploration and extraction of raw materials from the Danish underground for a 50-year period. The venture sparked the beginning of A.P. Moller - Maersk's engagement in the oil and gas industry as well as services to the off-shore sector.
1962 Concession in Denmark

1962 – Formation of the Danish Underground Consortium (DUC)

A joint-venture between A.P. Moller, Shell and Gulf was established in 1962. The Danish Underground Consortium (DUC) was to assist A.P. Moller, who had no prior experience in the field, with exploration activities and the possible extraction of raw materials from the underground. Gulf initially handled the operator role in DUC. By 1974, Maersk had the competences in place to share the operatorship in the North Sea and in 1986, Maersk Oil became the sole operator for DUC in charge of offshore explorations.
1962 Formation of the Danish Underground Consortium (DUC)

1965: A.P. Møller passed away

 A.P. Møller passed away 12 June 1965 at the age of 88. At the time of his death, the Maersk fleet consisted of 88 ships (a total of 1.7 million dwt) which amounted to almost half the total Danish merchant fleet. A.P. Møller engaged himself and his business in several different industries, from shipbuilding, tanker trade and retail to manufacturing, owning a sugar plantation and initiating an oil and gas company. Mærsk McKinney Møller assumed responsibility of the activities after his father.
A.P. Møller passed away

1967 – Maersk Supply Service was established

Maersk Supply Service was started when the company took delivery of 2 supply vessels which were to serve the chartered oil rig MAERSK EXPLORER with various types of material needed for drilling operations. In 1974, Maersk Supply Service became an independent business unit in the A.P. Moller - Maersk Group.
1967 Maersk Supply Service was established

1972 – The first Danish oil 

The joint venture Dansk Undergrunds Consortium (DUC) made its first find and started production in the Dan-field in the summer of 1972. His Royal Highness Prince Henrik opened the stream, when the first oil was transported to shore at the Danish town of Stigsnæs.
1972: The first Danish oil

1975: Container vessels

The development of the standard container in the mid-1960s initiated a revolution in world trade. Maersk was no forerunner in containerisation, but as demand from our costumers grew, we started containerising our original route from 1928 in 1975. Nine new container vessels ordered and on 5 September 1975, ADRIAN MÆRSK departed Newark, USA carrying 385 containers.
Container vessels

1977: Consolidation of Cargo

As containerisation expanded in the 1970’s, the need for optimal utilisation of the container’s space grew (cargo consolidation). This service requirement from our customers led to the establishment of the freight forwarder Mercantile with subsidiaries in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The activities were continued in Maersk Logistics and now as an integrated supply chain service offering.
Consolidation of Cargo

1979: Svitzer acquired by Maersk

SVITZER was established in 1833 and acquired by A.P. Moller - Maersk in 1979. SVITZER engages in specialised marine activities such as harbour, coastal, terminal/LNG, offshore and ocean towage as well as salvage operations, crew-boat and emergency-response services.
Svitzer acquired by Maersk

1979: Move to Esplanaden

Having had its main address at Kongens Nytorv 8 since 1915, A.P. Moller - Maersk moved to its new headquarters at Esplanaden, also in central Copenhagen. The original building is designed by Ole Hagen, while the extension from 2005 is designed by Henning Larsen.
Move to Esplanaden

1991: MCI is established

Mærsk Container Industry was established with the purpose of developing and manufacturing containers for the shipping industry. The company’s first dry container plant was established in Tinglev, Denmark in 1991. By 1995, manufacturing also included refrigerated containers and new container plants were established in China in 1998 and 2004. Eventually container manufacturing in Denmark would cease and today MCI focuses solely on manufacturing refrigerated containers from its facility in Qingdao, China.
MCI is established

1993: Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller steps down

After 28 years at the helm, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller stepped down as CEO and daily manager of the company. Mr. Møller remained very close to the company and he continued as chairman of the foundations, the shipping companies and Odense Steel Shipyard. He was succeeded by Jess Søderberg, who headed the company from 1993 to 2007.
Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller steps down

1993: Acquisition of the EACBen Container Line

A.P. Moller - Maersk acquired all liner activities in EACBen Container Line Ltd. from the Danish East Asiatic Company (ØK), thus making Maersk Line the largest container shipping company in the world.
Acquisition of the EACBen Container Line

2001: APM Terminals established

Since entering the container business, Maersk Line had invested in terminal facilities around the world. The portfolio of terminals was significantly increased with the acquisition of Sea-Land in 1999 and it was decided to establish APM Terminals as an independent business unit providing port and inland infrastructure.
APM Terminals established

2003: New name: A. P. Møller - Mærsk A/S

The two original companies, Dampskibsselskabet Svendborg and Dampskibsselskabet af 1912 (the Steamship Companies Svendborg and 1912) and their partnerships were merged under the name A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S.
New Name: A. P. Møller - Mærsk A/S

2003: Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller resigns as chairman

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller stepped down as chairman of the Board of Directors of A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S. Mr. Møller retained his chairmanships in the A.P. Møller Foundation and two other foundations with significant shareholdings in A.P. Møller - Mærsk as well as the Odense Steel Shipyard.  Mr. Møller was succeeded by Mr. Michael Pram Rasmussen who remained chairman until 2017.
Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller

2005: The P&O Nedlloyd acquisition

The British P&O and the Dutch Nedlloyd container shipping companies were merged into P&O Nedlloyd in 1995. In 2005, the constellation was acquired by A.P. Moller - Maersk. During the integration process, the Maersk-Sealand brand was changed back to Maersk Line (as before 2000). The integration of one large, global organization into another large, global organization proved difficult, but eventually provided Maersk Line with a scale that would not have been possible through organic growth.
The P&O Nedlloyd acquisition

2006: EMMA MÆRSK – a world record

For the third time in 10 years, Odense Steel Shipyard delivered the world’s largest container vessel – this time with a capacity of more than 15.000 twenty-foot containers. Maersk Line received a total of eight vessels of this size.
EMMA MÆRSK – a world record

2007: Change of CEO of A.P. Moller - Maersk

Nils Smedegaard Andersen succeeded Jess Søderberg as CEO of A.P. Moller – Maersk in 2007. Nils S. Andersen had been a board member of A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S for two years when he accepted the position as CEO, leaving a similar position with Carlsberg. Mr. Andersen remained the CEO until 2016.
Smedegaard Andersen

2009: Merger of logistics brands

When Sea-land was acquired in 1999, the acquisition included a portfolio of container terminals and logistics activities. Mercantile (established in 1977) integrated the Sea-land logistics under the new name Maersk Logistics in early 2000. Damco Sea & Air (established in 1905 as C.W.H van Dam & Co) was the forwarding arm of P&O Nedlloyd Logistics and acquired together with the container shipping activities in P&O Nedlloyd in 2005. Four years later, Maersk Logistics and Damco merged under the brand name Damco.
Merger of logistics brands

2012: Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller passed away

Still active at the age of 98, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller passed away on 16 April 2012. The entrepreneurial spirit of A.P. Møller was inherited by his son Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller who not only continued to build and expand the shipping and oil related businesses into global and market leading companies, but he also initiated an airline, an IT company, a container manufacturing business and a terminal business. His youngest daughter, Ane Mærsk Mc-Kinney Uggla assumed her father’s position as Chairman of the A.P. Møller Foundation.
Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller passed away

2013: The first Triple-E ultra large container ship

In 2013, the first Triple-E containership was delivered. The ship was named after the late Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, who passed away the year before. Upon delivery, MÆRSK MC-KINNEY MØLLER was the largest ship in the world, with its 400 metres in length, a capacity of more than 18.000 twenty-foot containers and 165.000 dead weight tonnage. The unique design features of the Triple-E series ensure more energy-efficient ships, economy of scale, while also greatly reducing the CO2 emission per container.
The first Triple-E ultra large container ship

2015: APM terminals Maasvlakte II

On 24 April, the official opening of APM Terminals’ most technologically advanced, most automated and sustainable container terminal Maasvlakte II took place. The Maasvlakte II runs entirely on power generated by wind turbines and is the world's first terminal with zero carbon emissions.
APM Terminals Maasvlakte II

2016: New CEO of A.P. Moller - Maersk

Søren Skou was appointed CEO of A.P. Moller – Maersk In 2016. Søren Skou has been with the company since 1983 and been a member of the A.P. Moller - Maersk leadership team since 2001.
New CEO of A.P. Moller - Maersk

2016: Global integrator of container logistics

 On 22 September, A.P. Moller - Maersk announced the strategic decision to reorganize the organization, from a conglomerate to becoming a focused, integrated transport and logistics company. The new strategy and vision of becoming the global integrator of container logistics, also meant that the company was to separate out the oil and gas-related businesses.
2016 Global integrator of container logistics

2017: New chairman of the Board of Directors

Jim Hageman Snabe succeeded Michael Pram Rasmussen as chairman of the Board of Directors of A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S.
New chairman of the Board of Directors

2017: Sale of Maersk Tankers

 In September 2017, A.P. Moller – Maersk entered into an agreement to sell the shares in Maersk Tankers to APMH Invest, a 100% owned subsidiary of A.P. Møller Holding A/S, the controlling shareholder of A.P. Moller - Maersk. 
Maersk Tankers was founded in 1928, when the first five tankers entered the Maersk fleet. A.P. Møller had become aware of this new business opportunity when demand for oil products increased during early 1920s and in 1927 he put in an order for five new-built tankers. The transportation of crude oil was our main business during the period 1950-1975.

2017 Sale of Maersk Tankers

2017: Acquisition of Hamburg Süd

 In late 2016, Maersk Line announced its intention to acquire the German container shipping line Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft KG (Hamburg Süd), at the time the seventh largest container shipping line in the world. The acquisition of Hamburg Süd was finalized in December 2017.
2017 Acquisition of Hamburg Süd

2018: Sale of Maersk Oil

 A material step in the strategy to separate out the oil and oil related activities to create an integrated transport & logistics company was taken in March 2018, when Maersk Oil was sold to TOTAL S.A. 
A.P. Moller – Maersk’s engagement in the oil and gas industry began when A.P. Møller and the company were granted sole concession for exploration and extraction of raw materials from the Danish underground in 1962.
2018 Sale of Maersk Oil

2019: Maersk Drilling listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen

 In April 2019, A. P. Moller - Maersk initiated the separation and demerger of Maersk Drilling and its activities. Subsequently Maersk Drilling became a separately listed company on Nasdaq Copenhagen. 
Maersk Drilling had been established in 1972 with the purpose of owning and operating rigs for companies with interests in oil exploration.
2019 Maersk Drilling listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen

2022: New chairman of the Board of Directors

Robert Mærsk Uggla succeeded Jim Hagemann Snabe as chairman of the Board of Directors of A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S.

Further reading:

  • Ove Hornby, ”With Constant Care…” A.P. Møller: Shipowner 1876-1965 (J.H. Schultz Information, 1988)
  • Chris Jephson & Henning Morgen, Creating Global Opportunities. Maersk Line in Containerisation 1973-2013 (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Photo credits:

Photographs not credited are from the A.P. Møller - Mærsk archives, from private collections or of unknown origin.

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