It all started with one route

Today, Maersk Line and its brands MCC Transport, Safmarine, Seago Line, Sealand and Hamburg Süd connects the world and enable trade for manufacturers and shippers.

The world has become a village in the sense that products from anywhere can be sold everywhere; low-cost and efficient transport is the key. It all started with one route and monthly departures…

Port calls on the first Maersk Line voyage in 1928


An agreement with the Ford Motor Co.

The Ford Motor Company had assembly factories around the world, but the car parts were manufactured in the USA.

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.


Delivered in 1921

Delivered from the Odense Steel Shipyard in 1921, LEISE MÆRSK was the first diesel motor vessel to enter the Maersk fleet.

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.


Special silkrooms

The first vessel designed for liner service: GERTRUDE MÆRSK entered the USA-Asia service in 1930.

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.

Learn more about Maersk and containerisation


Part 1 – Beginnings

1928 saw the initiative that has evolved into today’s Maersk Line.

Part 2 – Expansion

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…

Part 3 – Container

Boxes for the transport of goods came in many forms before 1956, but it widely recognized that containerisation as a concept was initiated when Malcom McLean shipped 58 containers from Newark, New Jersey, on 26 April 1956.

Part 4 – Logistics

Maersk’s entry into logistics started in 1977, two years after the introduction of the containerized service on the USA-Asia route.

Part 5 – Special Cargo

Maersk Line has moved special cargo since well before the container was introduced and we still do.

Part 6 – IT and Systems

From the early 1980’s, MCS (Maersk Communications System) made it possible “to communicate globally.

Part 7 – Refrigerated Containers

Global reefer trade surpassed 221 million tonnes in the year 2016 with an annual growth rate of 3.2% over the past decade.

Part 8 – Terminals

In 2016, world container port throughput reached 701 million TEUs. With the top 40 container ports handling almost 60 percent of the world total.

Part 9 – Growth in the world economy

Today’s trade is global. Since the first sea-borne container transport took place in 1956, the shipping and logistics industry has been one of the main facilitators of the globalisation of trade.

Part 10 – Branding

The white seven-pointed star on a blue background has represented Maersk since its very formation in 1904. Along with our distinctive blue colour, terminals, vessels and containers across the world have been showcasing our name and logo since the very beginning.