Maersk Line has been in business for 90 years and you are invited to mark the anniversary with us. In a series of stories, you can explore how Maersk Line has developed and adapted since the first voyage in 1928 and helped engineer some of the many tremendous changes in global trade shaping the world economy today.

Port calls on the first Maersk Line voyage in 1928.

24 years after establishing a shipping business, which had expanded into brokerage, shipbuilding and other industrial engagements, 1928 saw the initiative that has evolved into today’s Maersk Line.

A.P. Møller’s office in New York, established 1919, made an agreement with the Ford Motor Co. to transport car parts from the factories in North America to Ford’s assembly facilities in Japan. This contract provided the base freight along with general break-bulk cargoes.

The first Maersk Line voyage started on 12 July 1928 in Baltimore and after stops for more cargo in New York and Savannah, Georgia, LEISE MÆRSK passed through the Panama Canal and called at San Pedro, then the port of Los Angeles. LEISE MÆRSK arrived in Yokohama on 10 September and continued to Kobe and Moji before calling Manila and Iloilo in the Philippines in late September.

The return voyage included calls in San Pedro and Philadelphia before ending in New York on 9 December. Meanwhile, the second voyage had started on 8 September, and from then on, Maersk vessels departed from United States East Coast ports (about) every month – the schedules were not as strict at the time.


Based on a photo of the Maersk Star of the funnel of a ship, a logo for MAERSK LINE was developed.

The new liner service was an experiment and the vessels deployed on the first departures were tramp ships that were not ideal for a regular liner service. Contrary to the tramping business, where the cargo more often was large quantities in bulk, the liner service had to cater for a variety of cargoes.

The service was a success and Maersk Line took delivery of its first specially designed liner vessel in 1930. GERTRUDE MÆRSK had facilities for ordinary dry break-bulk cargoes, tanks for coconut oil, wood oil and other similar products, special silkrooms and refrigerated holds for early Cold Chain products.



An affordable way of travelling

NORA MÆRSK (1934) was designed with regular cargo holds, a refrigerated hold, tanks for oil cargoes…and a luggage room for the passengers’ belongings.

From 1934, Maersk Line introduced fortnightly departures and gained ground among the ship-pers and even passengers; the Maersk Line ships had accommodation for up to 16 passengers – seeing the world by cargo liner was a popular, and affordable, way of travelling.

The USA-Asia route was expanded to include calls in Shanghai and Hong Kong, but further plans were halted by the outbreak of the Second World War.

As Denmark was invaded by Germany in April 1940, the Maersk ships were considered “enemy ships” and they were requisitioned by the warring countries. 150 colleagues and 25 ships, trampers, tankers and liners, were lost in the War, and only in 1946 were we able to resume the liner service.

New opportunities arose in South East Asia, where Maersk Line expanded from 1947.

Offices in Japan, Thailand and Indonesia were the corner stones in obtaining a sound customer base for inter-Asia routes, the Japan-Middle East line, the Japan-West Africa line and other initiatives that were added to the original Panama-line.

Expansion of the route network 

Today, we connect all corners of the world and port calls happen several times every hour, but it all started with one route and monthly departures in 1928…