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The End of an Era

28th April 2012

The recent death of Maersk McKinney Moller a few days shy of his 99th birthday calls attention to the fact that the Moller family, of Denmark, established and continues to control what quickly became the largest merchant shipping company the world has ever seen. Founded in the early years of the 20th century, the company would not become the colossus it is today until the onset of containerized cargo transport in the final decades of the century.

In 1999, Maersk purchased the American company, Sea-Land Services, that had pioneered the concept of carrying cargo in containers in the late 1950s and today Maersk Lines, as the shipping company is generally known, operates more vessels than its three largest competitors combined.

The late Maersk McKinney Moller headed the A.P Moller-Maersk Group as CEO from 1965 until 1993, and then continued to serve as Chairman until 2003. The corporation’s headquarters are in a magnificent building along the Copenhagen waterfront, just a short walk from the famous state of the Little Mermaid, a fictional character created by another famous resident of Copenhagen, Hans Christian Andersen.

By Brian Cudahy, author of Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed the World