One hundred and twenty years of Hapag-Lloyd liner services to Canada in which much has changed. One essential point has not: Canada has always been a very special partner for Hapag-Lloyd.

This summer, to celebrate the 120th anniversary of its first liner service to Canada, Hapag-Lloyd held receptions in Montreal and Vancouver.

“We’re incredibly proud of the long-standing partnership between Hapag-Lloyd and its customers in Canada. It is an area of great economic importance”, said Michael Behrendt, Chairman of the Executive Board of Hapag-Lloyd AG, on the occasion of the anniversary.

The event highlighted the company’s long journey – from modest beginnings transporting emigrants, to today’s truly global reach by means of large, modern containerships with capacities of up to 8,750 TEUs.

In the mid-19th century, large-scale emigration from Europe to the New World began in earnest. To transport these waves of emigrants, shipping companies were set up all over Europe, including German companies Hamburg-Amerikanische Paketfahrt Aktiengesellschaft – Hapag for short – (established in 1847), and Norddeutscher Lloyd (established in 1857), and Hansa (established in 1881).

Hansa had sent one of its first steamers to Quebec in 1883, and followed it up in 1884 with monthly liner service between Hamburg, Quebec and Montreal, the success of which generated interest at Hapag, its leading competitor.

In 1892, when liner services to Canada appeared to offer a growth opportunity, Hapag acquired Hansa.

In the spring of 1892, 120 years ago, the steamer “Cremon” first set sail for Montreal flying the Hapag flag. Compared with today’s standards, the ship was more dainty than impressive: 2,132 GRT, over 90 metres long, travelling at ten knots and carrying 18 passengers.

The Hapag steamship “Prinz Oskar” launched the route in March 1909, making the first passage from Hamburg to Montreal. A modern ship at the time, it was 128 metres long, 6,026 GRT and could travel at a speed of over 12 knots, carrying up to 1,243 passengers. Although the first Hapag liner service got off to a relatively modest start, it marked the beginning of liner traffic that today connects Canada with almost any other country.

In 1954, Hapag and Norddeutscher Lloyd launched a joint service to Quebec, Montreal and Toronto, and from there on to Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Sarnia, Hamilton and back. After the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, linking the Atlantic with Lake Superior, Hapag and Lloyd immediately provided an upgraded weekly freight and passenger express service in the summer months. In winter, there was a fortnightly service to the St. Lawrence ports.

In the second half of the 1960s, international shipping underwent dramatic change with the introduction of internationally standardised shipping containers. Its advantages were considerable, but a transition required investments in large and expensive vessels that not even a large shipping company could afford on its own. That was why Hapag and Norddeutscher Lloyd merged in 1970 to form today’s Hapag-Lloyd AG.

In October 2005, Hapag-Lloyd AG acquired CP Ships. CP’s service was maintained without interruptions, and after a transitional period of less than a year, CP was fully integrated. The result was a global player with 138 ships and a total capacity of over 467,000 TEUs.

Today, Hapag-Lloyd is among the largest container shipping lines in the world, and its 149 ships with a total capacity of around 670,000 TEUs call at more than 430 ports all over the world. In Canada, Hapag-Lloyd’s liner services call at all major ports. Its principal ports of call are Vancouver, Halifax and Montreal, where it has been among the most important partners for many years. For Halifax and Vancouver it is the largest partner, and for Montreal the second-largest. How close these ties have become is shown not only by the company’s Canadian head office in the heart of Montreal, but also by its 20-per-cent stake in Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership – one of only two terminals in the world in which the company is a shareholder. The other is in its home port of Hamburg.

In Halifax, Hapag-Lloyd now handles about 100,000 TEUs per year and has been the Port’s largest customer for more than ten years. To reflect the city’s importance to the company, a 4,890-TEU ship on this route has been named “Halifax Express.”

From Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, Hapag-Lloyd connects the Canadian economy with the world, providing eleven fixed-day sailings: three from Montreal to Northern and Southern Europe, four from Halifax to Europe and Asia, and four from Vancouver to Northern and Southern Europe, Asia and Oceania.