The first million is always the hardest

Twenty-five years ago today, Hapag-Lloyd AG’s cargo volume transported within a single year exceeded 1 million TEU for the first time ever.


There was nothing about this container that indicated it was a special one. On 22 December 1996, a container gantry crane in the Port of Hong Kong hoisted it into the air and deposited it with the usual crash on Hapag-Lloyd AG’s “Hoechst Express” – as just one of many that would set sail on the 4,400 TEU ship. The destination: Europe. However, when the ship and the container safely arrived in the Port of Hamburg a few weeks later, they were welcomed with a celebration.

With this box, the cargo volume transported by Hapag-Lloyd within a single year broke the magical barrier of 1 million TEU for the first time. What made it possible was a volume growth of 4.5%, which was in line with the average market development.

Since the record-breaking container was filled with goods bound for Karstadt AG, high-ranking representatives of the German department store chain were invited to jointly celebrate its many years of good cooperation with Hapag-Lloyd.

This “first millionth” container represented a milestone for Hapag-Lloyd in 1996 – but it also symbolised the rapid growth of global container transports over the decades. Ten years earlier, in 1986, Hapag-Lloyd had carried a total of 459,000 TEU – or less than half as many containers. And thanks in part to double-digit growth rates around the turn of the millennium, the mark of 2 million TEU in a single year was already surpassed by 2003.

In subsequent years, China’s admission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) gave a big and special boost to international trade and shipping. Thanks to this across-the-board market growth and the four major mergers and acquisitions that Hapag-Lloyd was involved in over the past two decades, our annual transport volume is now in the region of a very impressive 12 million TEU. This means that we have a global market share of 10%, which we would like to further consolidate in the future.

In addition, there is something to celebrate again this year as Hapag-Lloyd turns 175 years. There will be an anniversary week in June to celebrate this birthday in our 418 offices around the world.

This article is shared by courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd. For more news by Hapag-Lloyd

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