Before WWI they were on top of the world. The North German Lloyd company was founded in Bremen in 1857 and developed into one of the two most important German shipping companies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Operating out of Bremen, it became the primary means of transporting German emigrants to America, and also was instrumental in the economic development of Bremen and Bremerhaven.
By 1900, the North German Lloyd company and its German competitor the HAPAG company began the “decade of Germans” in transatlantic shipping. Their ocean liners dominated sea routes with several record-breaking ships. They vied with the British Cunard Line and the White Star Line as one of the largest shipping companies in the world.
Then disaster struck. After the First World War North German Lloyd barely survived because its fleet was confiscated by the Allies. The company struggled with small ships and even operated an air transport company, Lloyd Luftverkehr Sablatnig. In 1923 they merged with HAPAG’s air transport subsidiary to form Deutscher Aero Lloyd, which on 6 January 1926 merged with Junkers Luftverkehr AG to become Deutsche Luft Hansa A.G., the predecessor of Lufthansa.
When North German Lloyd shipping finally re-emerged as a major shipping company in 1929… with the launch of three new huge ocean liners… it was again bad luck because their launch coincided with the start of a worldwide Great Depression.
But then one of their new ships, the Bremen, recorded a speed record in 1929 as the fastest ship to ever cross the Atlantic. Because of the quality of their luxury ships they survived the Depression…only to be sidelined again in 1945. After WWII, they lost their entire fleet…once again confiscated by the Allies.
Ten years later, in 1955, the North German Lloyd company (NGL) made their third new start with a modest ship…the SS Berlin. Gradually, as passenger transport shifted to airlines, NGL converted its ships and continued to grow by concentrating on container shipping.
In 1970 North German Lloyd merged with its German competitor, the Hamburg America Line (HAPAG). Today, the merged company… HAPAG-LLOYD …is one of the major container shipping companies in the world.