Hapag-Lloyd Celebrates 120 Years of Liner Service to Canada

Montreal express hapag lloyd containership canada
The “Montreal Express” (4,400 TEU) on the St Lawrence River and Quebec City beyond

In 1892, the first steamer “Cremon” set sail for Montreal flying the Hapag flag.  Today, Hapag-Lloyd is the largest container carrier in Canada, and fourth-largest in the world, with a comprehensive network of eleven services from Canada to Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

barque hapag-lloyd maritime history
The first steamers used in the new liner service to Canada had a capacity of between 2,100 and 2,900 GRT and were also rigged as barques.

This summer, Hapag-Lloyd is celebrating the 120th anniversary of its first liner service to Canada. As Canadian routes became increasingly attractive from an economic point of view at the end of the 19th century, Hapag acquired the smaller Hamburg-based steamer shipping company, Hansa, and continued the service they started to Canada in 1883 under the name Hansa Line. In 1892, the steamer “Cremon” first set sail for Montreal flying the Hapag flag. By today’s standards the ship, with its 2,132 gross register tonnage, was rather smaller than it was impressive. It was 90 metres long and could carry just 18 passengers. By way of comparison, the large container vessels in the “Seattle Express” class, currently serving Hapag-Lloyd’s Asia–Canada route, are 334 metres long, have a capacity of up to 103,000 tonnes and can carry 8,600 standard containers.

A good decade before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the company included Canada in the longest round trips that its vessels ever made: from Hamburg around Cape Horn and then from America’s western seaboard up to Canada’s Puget Sound. The round trip included a canada pacific hapag lloyd maritime historytotal of 80 ports and took up to 15 weeks back then. After the two world wars, both German shipping companies Hapag and Norddeutscher Lloyd, which merged in 1972 to become Hapag-Lloyd AG, first resumed a joint service to Canada in 1954. As container shipping became the norm, Hapag-Lloyd included Halifax in its full container service between Europe and the east coast of the US in 1972.

With the acquisition of CP Ships in October 2005, Hapag-Lloyd also acquired a piece of Canadian history. The subsequent integration of the established Canadian shipping company is internationally considered to have been exemplary. The service was maintained without limitations, yet after a transitional period of just over a year, Hapag-Lloyd announced the successful completion of the integration. This made Hapag-Lloyd, with its fleet of 136 ships, a global player among the international top five container liner shipping companies. At the same time, Hapag-Lloyd also became the largest container carrier in Canada.

Canada is still one of Hapag-Lloyd’s most important trading routes, as it has been for the last 120 years. For decades it has been served by the most modern ships in the Company’s fleet. For Halifax and Vancouver, Hapag-Lloyd is the largest partner, and for Montreal the second-largest. These routes via Canada allow many markets in the United States to be connected quickly and reliably with Europe and Asia. The route that was started 120 years ago has meanwhile grown into a comprehensive network of eleven Hapag-Lloyd services from Canada to Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

“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”, says Michael Behrendt, Chairman of the Executive Board of Hapag-Lloyd AG, on the anniversary.

All images courtesy Hapag-Lloyd