In 2016, world container port throughput reached 701 million TEUs . With the top 40 container ports handling almost 60 percent of the world total. Largest ports being Shanghai and Singapore handling more than 30 million TEU a year each .


Cargo Handling in the 1930s.


A key facilitator in the sheer volume of goods being traded today is the introduction of the standardised container in the 1960s. The use of containers was introduced by Malcolm Mclean in 1956, but for global containerized trade to gain momentum big investments needed to be put into the restructuring of ports and infrastructure.


Loading porcelain and artificial flower on board CHASTINE MÆRSK, Yokohama, Dec. 1948.


Before the introduction of the container, cargo handling was a very cumbersome and labour-intensive affair. The goods, which were packed individually in sacks, barrels, wooden crates or boxes, needed to be manually laid on nets or connected to slings and then lifted from the cargo holds of the ship.

Even though forklifts and pallets had been introduced and used since the Second World War in an effort to homogenize cargo and increase port productivity, the process was still so time consuming that the general cargo liners would most likely spend more time in port than at sea. Once the container was introduced transportation cost and loading times were significantly reduced. What used to take days could now be done within hours…


Side-port loading of palletised goods. ca. 1960–1975.


In 1964 Maersk Line made the decision to focus on unitised cargo "the pallet" - not containers. Maersk ordered the c-ships - specifically to handle palletised cargo efficiently. Side-port loading with pallets took place from (approx) 1960 up until the containerization process was initiated by Maersk line in 1975.

In 1951, Maersk began managing two leased terminals in Brooklyn via the newly formed Brigantine Terminal Corporation and then in 1958, the Moller Steamship Company (todays Maersk inc.) leased Pier 11 in Brooklyn to handle the semi-container vessels on the Panama service.


Pier 11, Brooklyn New York. Late 1950s. Maersk Line is painted on the roof of the warehouse and distribution centre, which was the largest in New York at the time.


When Maersk Line introduced the first containerised service in 1975 the terminal operation was moved to newly built container terminal, Pier 51 in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey. ADRIAN MÆRSK departed from the new and Maersk Line exclusive terminal carrying 385 containers. At this point in time, it was estimated that the total world container through-put had reached 17 million TEUs.


ADRIAN MÆRSK arrived at Pier 51 on 3 September 1975. Brand new Maersk Line containers all lined up and ready for shipment on the new containerised service.


Maersk Line would continue to invest and operate terminal facilities around the world, Algeciras in Spain opened in 1986, terminals in Denmark, Japan, United States, Thailand, Taiwan and Oman soon followed and further steps towards creating a formal terminal business was taken in 1989 when the Terminal Planning and Implementation team was established. The following year the Future Terminal Concept Group team was formed to define the terminal needs that would meet the future aspirations of the business.


The container terminal Algeciras in southern Spain is one of the most important terminals in the global liner network. Lines between USA and the Middle East, Europe and the Far East and the West Africa service all call at this transhipment terminal.


By 1999 Maersk Line owned and/or operated ten terminals and had invested in several other terminals along its network. Plans to invest in several more terminals were in the pipeline and after the acquisition of SeaLand, Maersk had become the third largest terminal operator in the world. The decision to establish an independent business unit, with the ability to service third-party carriers, was carried out in 2001 with the official establishment of APM Terminals.

Maersk Line 90 years

Maerskline has been in business for 90 years, from break-bulk to containers. The first voyage was on 12 July 1928. Explore the full story below.


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.