Go back in time with A.P. Moller - Maersk

Go back in time with A.P. Moller - Maersk


A.P. Møller is born

The founder of what was to become A.P. Moller - Maersk, Arnold Peter Møller was born in Dragør, just south of Copenhagen, on 2 October 1876 to sea captain Peter Mærsk Møller and Ane (Anna) Mærsk Møller born Jeppesen. Anna Møller was the daughter of the prominent shipowner Hans Jeppesen, who had employed Peter Mærsk Møller as a captain in 1862.


From sail to steam

A.P. Møller’s father Peter Mærsk Møller captained his father-in-law’s ships for many years. One was the barque VALKYRIEN, which Peter Mærsk Møller took command of in 1874. But after the tragic wrecking of VALKYRIEN in 1883, Peter Mærsk Møller made the important decision to move from sail to steam and at the age of 48, he proceeded to qualify as a steamship master.


Villa Anna

A.P. Møller’s childhood home. Named after his mother Anna Mærsk Møller. Anna and Peter Mærsk Møller decided to move the family from Dragør to Svendborg, which at that time was a leading shipping centre in Denmark. It was here at Villa Anna, that the idea of a family-run shipping company took form.


The s.s. LAURA

After having completed his examinations as a steamship master, Peter Mærsk Møller acquired the small steamer LAURA on 30 June 1886 and set up the Steamship Company LAURA at Villa Anna. It was Peter Mærsk Møller’s aspiration that it would eventually become a family based shipping company. 

The Maersk star

The Maersk logo came into existence when Peter Mærsk Møller decorated the funnel of his steamer LAURA with a white seven-pointed star on a light blue background. Peter Mærsk Møller explained the background of the logo in a letter to his wife Anna: "The little star on the funnel is a reminder of the evening I prayed for you so dejectedly and anxiously, asking for the sign that I might see in the grey, overcast sky, a reminder that the Lord hears our prayers." Anna Møller had suffered from a serious illness, while accompanying her husband on a voyage years earlier. Fortunately, Anna recovered and the star became a symbol of their good fortune. When the Steamship Company Svendborg was established in 1904, Peter Mærsk Møller agreed with his son, A.P. Møller that the star would be used as a logo in the new company as well.


A.P. Møller begins his training

To support his father’s long held dream of starting a family-run shipping company, A.P. Møller began his training in 1892. A.P. Møller started out as a trade apprentice in Sorø, Denmark, from 1892 - 1895. From there on, he travelled and worked in trading and shipping houses in England, Germany and Russia, until he returned to Denmark in 1903. He took a position with C.K. Hansen, a shipping company located at Esplanaden, where the A.P. Moller - Maersk headquarters is located today.


The first company is established

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



Two of A.P. Møller's brothers contributed actively to the upstart of the new company. Hans N.J. Mærsk-Møller captained the s.s. SVENDBORG on the ship’s first voyage from Cardiff, Wales bringing coal to the Russian Baltic port of Kronstadt, and Oluf Mærsk-Møller was the ship’s chief engineer.

SVENDBORG was built in 1902 and the vessel's weight carrying capacity was 2,200 dwt with an engine output of 625 hp. In comparison, the newest additions to the Maersk fleet, the 2nd generation Triple-E vessels have an approximate weight carrying capacity of 206.000 dwt and an engine output of more than 70.500 hp. 


The name giving tradition

From 1906 – 1910 three new-builds were added to the company, thus creating a small company fleet. PETER MÆRSK (1906), ANNA MÆRSK (1908) and CHASSIE MÆRSK (1910). The first two vessels were named after A.P. Møller's parents Anna and Peter Møller. The third ship A.P. Møller named after his wife Chastine Mc-Kinney, whom he had married that same year. The tradition of using family related names with the suffix 'Mærsk' for the company's fleet is still in use to this day.


A.P. Møller establishes a new shipping company

A.P. Møller founded ‘Dampskibsselskabet af 1912’ (The Steamship Company of 1912) in order to secure himself operational independence. A.P. Møller was the manager of both companies (the steamship companies Svendborg and 1912), and due to favorable circumstances in the shipping business during the First World War, the new 1912 shipping company quickly expanded. The two companies were managed in parallel until the merger in 2003.


Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller is born

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was born 13 July 1913, as the second child of A.P. Møller and Chastine Estelle Mc-Kinney Møller.


Head office moves to Kongens Nytorv

Having previously resided at the old Stock Exchange building from 1913 – 1915, the head office was moved to a more spacious location at Kongens Nytorv 8, Copenhagen.


Odense Steel Shipyard is established

Due to the large demand for additional tonnage, which arose during the First World War, A.P. Møller decided to establish ‘Odense Staalskibsværft A/S’ (Odense Steel Shipyard) at Odense canal on the island of Funen. The first vessel built at the yard was delivered on 26 May 1920 and named ROBERT MÆRSK.


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. Today, the company is represented in 130 countries.



Built at Odense Steel Shipyard, LEISE MÆRSK was a record-breaking new-build that became the world's first single screw diesel ship and the first diesel ship to be put into the tramping business. Incidentally, LEISE MÆRSK was also the first ship to be used on the USA-Asia route when Maersk Line started operations in 1928. LEISE MÆRSK was sunk while sailing under the British flag in November 1940.  


Tankers in the fleet

Taking advantage of the growing demand for oil products, A.P. Møller ordered five tankers for delivery in 1928. By 1939, six additional tankers had entered the fleet. Crude oil tankers would form the core of the company’s shipping activities until the mid-1970s.


Maersk Line begins operations

The first voyage in Maersk Line’s history 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. The first base cargo for Maersk Line was Ford Motor Company car parts.


Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller enters the business

During 1930 – 1938, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller started his training and gained experience in various shipping and banking related businesses in Denmark, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. In 1938, he returned to his father's company in a junior management role. Following the German invasion of Denmark in April 1940, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was made partner of his father’s firm.

His immediate task was to manage the fleet of the Svendborg and 1912 shipping companies outside Danish waters from the office in New York. 



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 A.P. Møller Foundation

A.P. Møller established the ‘A.P. Møller Foundation’ to ensure stable ownership of the company in accordance with his business principles. After A.P. Møller’s death in 1965, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller arranged for the Foundation to acquire shares sufficient to ensure majority stakes in the Steamship Company Svendborg and the Steamship Company of 1912. Today, the majority ownership of
A.P. Møller – Mærsk A/S lies with A.P. Møller Holding A/S, fully owned by the A.P. Møller Foundation.
See more here: www.investor.maersk.com and www.apmollerfonde.dk


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 fleet has since become known as the ‘Blue Fleet’.



New shipyard at Lindø

Due to the increasing demand for larger vessels, Odense Steel Shipyard established the Lindø yard near the town of Munkebo, still on the island of Funen. The new location facilitated construction of vessels of up to 200.000 tons. In 1966, all shipbuilding activities were transferred from Odense to the new Lindø yard and in 1969, the docks were extended to a capacity of 650.000 tons and the landmark of the yard, the large portal crane, was constructed.


Concession in Denmark

In 1962, A.P. Møller and the Steamship Companies Svendborg & 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’s engagement in energy production and services to the off-shore sector.


Formation of 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, a company with no prior experience in the field, with exploration activities and potentially extracting raw materials from the underground. Gulf initially acted as the operator, but A.P. Moller took over that role in 1974.


First product tankers

The company’s first product tankers, DANGULF MÆRSK and SVENGULF MÆRSK were delivered from Odense Steel Shipyard. The two ships operated in cooperation with Gulf Oil and transported refined products from Gulf Oil's refinery at the Danish town Stignæs to Scandinavian markets.  



A.P. Møller dies in June 1965

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. Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller assumed responsibility of the activities and companies and continued to develop and expand the business.  



Maersk Supply Service is established

Maersk Supply Service was established in connection with the oil exploration efforts in the Danish part of the North Sea. Today, the fleet of supply vessels that serves the offshore oil and gas industry includes more than 40 purpose-built vessels.


Maersk Air takes off

Maersk Air started flights in Denmark. Later, the company extended its operation to include international scheduled, charter and cargo services. The activities in Maersk Air were divested in 2005, but Star Air remains a part of A.P. Moller – Maersk.


Mærsk Data is established

Originating from the company’s internal IT function; Mærsk Data was established in 1970 to support IT projects and operations within the company. At the time of the sale to IBM in 2004, Mærsk Data had grown into an international company with more than 3.500 employees and offices around the world.


Maersk Drilling is established

Maersk Drilling was established to own and operate drilling rigs for companies with interests in oil exploration.

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 Danish shores


First gas tanker in the Maersk fleet  

INGE MÆRSK was Maersk Tankers' first gas tanker. She was a so-called LPG-tanker; LPG is short for Liquefied Petroleum Gas.  



Container vessels

Maersk Line introduced nine container vessels on the original route, which still connects USA and The Far East. ADRIAN MÆRSK departed from Newark, USA, on 5 September 1975. Learn more about Maersk Line in containerisation here: www.creatingglobalopportunities.com


Gas agreement in the North Sea

An agreement was entered with the Danish government regarding rights and production of natural gas in the Danish North Sea. 


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 Damco.


Svitzer acquired by Maersk

SVITZER was established in 1833 and acquired by A.P. Moller - Maersk in 1979. Today, SVITZER is the global market leader engaged 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.


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 was designed by Ole Hagen, while the extension from 2005 was designed by Henning Larsen.  


The first gas from the North Sea

The then Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlüter pushed the button, when the joint venture Dansk Undergrunds Consortium (DUC) with Maersk Oil as operator produced the first natural gas from the Tyra field in the Danish North Sea.


Ane Uggla joins the A.P. Møller Foundation

Emma and Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller’s youngest daughter, Ane Mærsk Mc-Kinney Uggla entered both the ‘A.P. Møller Foundation’ and ‘A.P. Møller Relief Foundation’ as a board member. In 1991, she also joined the board of directors of the Steamship Company of 1912 and is now the vice chairman of the board of directors in A.P. Møller – Mærsk A/S. During 1996-2008 Mrs. Uggla was a member of the board at the Odense Steel Shipyard.


First acquisition within the liner trade

Maersk Line took over the liner activities in Chargeurs Réunis, France, and Cie Maritime Belge, Belgium.


MARCHEN MÆRSK - a perfect fit for the Panama Canal

The M-series (named after the first letter in the ships’ names) surprised the shipping industry, because of their ability to transport 11 containers across instead of the 10 that was thought to be the limit for ships passing through the Panama Canal. The M-series were the largest container vessels of their time and the first in the series, MARCHEN MÆRSK was delivered on 21 April 1988.


MCI is established

Mærsk Container Industry was established in Tinglev, Denmark with the purpose of developing and manufacturing containers for the shipping industry. Today, the headquarters and sales office are located in Copenhagen, whereas the research and development department remain in Tinglev. Production takes place in three modern facilities in China and in Chile.


Safety with double hull

ELEO MÆRSK, the world’s first double hulled VLCC (very large crude carrier), was delivered from Odense Steel Shipyard. Almost three meters separated the inner and outer hull to prevent oil spills in the case of grounding or collision.


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. 



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.  


Danish oil production in Qatar

After two years of preparation, Maersk Oil initiated oil production in Qatar. In 2017, the contract and license to operate the Al Shaheen oilfield was discontinued.


REGINA MÆRSK – a world record

The world’s largest container vessel, REGINA MÆRSK with a capacity of more than 6.000 twenty-foot containers, was delivered to Maersk Line from Odense Steel Shipyard.


SOVEREIGN MÆRSK – a new record

The shipyard’s own world record from the year before was surpassed when Odense Steel Shipyard delivered SOVEREIGN MÆRSK with a capacity of more than 6.600 twenty-foot containers to Maersk Line.


Safmarine and Sea-Land acquired 

Safmarine Container Lines was acquired and continued to operate under the brand name Safmarine. Later that same year, Sea-Land Service Inc. was acquired. In that connection, Maersk Line changed its name to Maersk Sealand during 2000-2006. 



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 currently operates 73 ports and terminals in 36 countries and continues to expand.

Maersk innovator


MÆRSK INNOVATOR was the largest and most advanced jack-up drilling rig in the world, when delivered to Maersk Drilling in 2003. The legs are 205 meters tall and the rig is specifically designed for ultra-harsh environment conditions – the design enables the rig to operate year-round at up to 150 meters depth. 


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.


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. 


A.P. Moller - Maersk concession extended

A.P. Moller – Maersk’s concession for oil exploration and production was extended to the year 2042.


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.


Activities in the British North Sea

Maersk Oil acquired the majority of Kerr-McGee’s oil and gas interests in the British part of the North Sea. As part of the acquisition, Maersk Oil took over a staff of more than 500.


EMMA MÆRSK – a new 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.

MAERSK Our People Denmark 47

Change of CEO of A.P. Moller - Maersk

Nils Smedegaard Andersen succeeded Jess Søderberg as CEO of A.P. Moller – Maersk in 2007.


Shipbuilding ends

Due to the increasingly difficult competitive situation, it was decided to cease shipbuilding activities at Lindø. The last ship was delivered in 2012.

Merger og logistics brands

Merger of logistics brands

From Mercantile to Maersk Logistics to Damco...
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. Today, Damco is one of the world’s leading providers of freight forwarding and supply chain management.

MMKM passed away

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller passed away

Still active at the age of 98, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller passed away on 16 April 2012. His youngest daughter, Ane Mærsk Mc-Kinney Uggla assumed her father’s position as Chairman of the A.P. Møller Foundation.


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 (dwt). 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.

Drilling ship

Drill ships for Maersk Drilling

MAERSK VIKING was the first drill ship to join the jack-up rigs and semi-submersible rigs in the Maersk Drilling fleet. Three similar ultra deepwater drilling ships has since entered the fleet, all designed to operate at depths exceeding 3,500 m. 


APM Terminals Maasvlakte II 

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


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.


Robert M. Uggla - CEO of APM Holding

Robert M. Uggla, son of Ane Mærsk Mc-Kinney Uggla and Peder Uggla was appointed CEO of A.P. Møller Holding A/S (established in 2013 and fully-owned by the A.P. Møller Foundation). APM Holding holds the majority vote and capital in A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S. Robert Uggla joined Maersk in 2004 and in 2014 he joined the board of directors of A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S. 



New business structure

In September, it was announced that the previous conglomerate business structure of A.P. Moller – Maersk was to be reorganised into two separate divisions – an integrated Transport & Logistics division containing Maersk Line, APM Terminals, DAMCO, Svitzer and Maersk Container Industry and an Energy division.

The main growth focus of A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S going forward would be on the transport and logistics services. The oil and oil related businesses were to be separated from A.P. Møller - Mærsk A/S, either individually or in combination.



Maersk Drilling took possession of the fourth and final XL enhanced ultra harsh environment jack-up rig MAERSK INVINCIBLE in 2016. The XLE’s are the largest jack-up rigs in the world and with a leg length of 206.8 m (678ft) they are capable of operating in depths up to 150 m (492 ft).
in 2017, MAERSK INVINCIBLE became the first jack-up rig to operate entirely on shore-power delivered through a 294 km cable from Lista, Norway.

New chairman

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

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)

Morten Hahn-Pedersen, Maersk Oil. From Danish to international operations. (Gyldendal Business, 2017)

Photo credits

1886: Photo 1: Max Dreblow; 1892: Richard Hansen, Sorø; 1906: Photo 2: Anna Mærsk by Craely Metropole Studios Cardiff; 1913: Mogens von Haven; 1915: Image of Copenhagen Stock Exchange (Museum of Copenhagen); 1918, 1959 & 2009(2): Odense Steel Shipyard; 1928 (1), 1992: Maersk Tankers; 1955, 1987, 1988, 1996, 1997: Maersk Line; 1940-45: John Rasmussen, Narsaq Foto; 1953: Kehlet; 1962: Maersk Oil; 1967: Maersk Supply Service; 1969: Maersk Air; 1986: Ricky John Molloy; 1970: Photo 1: Vagn Hansen, Maersk Data; 1972, 1994, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016(4): Maersk Drilling; 1977: Mercantile; 1979: Svitzer; 1991: Maersk Container Industry; 1999: Safmarine; 2001: APM Terminals; 2006: Hunderup Luftfoto; 2009: Damco; 2016(2): Photo of Robert Uggla by Steen Brogaard.   

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