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Over 130 Years of History, Underscored by Our Never-ending Spirit of Challenge

In the more than 130 years since MOL was founded, we have continued to expand thanks to our never-ending spirit of challenge.
MOL generates added value to the goods and materials we transport via our main business, international ocean shipping.
Through ocean shipping, we contribute to the development of global industries and to more prosperous communities, which is part of our corporate social responsibility. Still, we have inherited this as the spirit of our company since our founding, and we are proud to continue in that vein.

The iron-hulled steamer Hideyoshi Maru begins ocean transport of Miike coal from Kuchinotsu (Japan) to Shanghai.
Osaka Shosen Kaisha (OSK Line) is founded.

The head office building at the time of OSK Lines' founding
The high-speed cargo ship Kinai Maru enters service, and covers the Yokohama-New York route in 25 days and 17.5 hours, well below the industry average of 35 days.
The Argentina Maru and Brasil Maru are built and enters service as cargo/passenger liners on the South America route. These vessels represent the state of the art in Japanese shipbuilding at the time.

Argentina Maru
Mitsui Steamship Co., Ltd. (Mitsui Line) is founded.

The head office building at the time of Mitsui Line's founding. (Nihombashi, Tokyo)


World War II: The Devastation and Recovery of Japan's Merchant Fleet

Japan's private merchant shipping fleet was conscripted into military transport, losing a total of around 2,400 vessels and over 30,000 seafarers. While recovering from its defeat in the war, Japan became a major trading country, importing iron ore, petroleum and other resources while exporting automobiles, electrical appliances and other products.
Growing in tandem with the rebounding Japanese economy, MOL provided essential marine transport, promoting diversification and specialization of its businesses to ultimately develop into a full-line marine transport group boasting a wide range of vessel types.

The Kinkasan Maru, the world's first automated ship, enters service and for the first time, the engine room is operated entirely from the bridge.

OSK Line and Mitsui Line merge to form Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL). Nitto Shosen and Daido Kaiun merge to form Japan Line, Ltd. (JL). Yamashita Kisen and Shinnihon Kisen merge to form Yamashita-Shinnihon Steamship Co., Ltd. (YSL).
The Oppama Maru, Japan's first specialized car carrier enters service.

MOL, JL, and YSL start operation of the full containerships the America Maru, Japan Ace, and Kashu Maru to ply the Japan-California route.

America Maru


Competitiveness of Japanese Flagged Vessels Challenged by the Yen’s Sharp Appreciation Following the Plaza Accord and Floating Exchange Rates

In 1973, Japan switched from a fixed exchange rate system where one U.S. dollar equaled ¥360 to a floating exchange rate system. With the signing of the Plaza Accord in 1985, the yen appreciated sharply from around ¥240 per U.S. dollar to about ¥120. This caused the competitiveness of Japanese flagged vessels to nosedive. MOL began promoting mixed crews of Japanese and foreign national seafarers, and idled a large number of Japanese seafarers as part of its restructuring process.

Japan's first methanol carrier, the Kosan Maru, enters service.

The LNG carrier Senshu Maru enters service.

  • Japan's first full-fledged cruise ship, the Fuji Maru, enters service, ushering in the era of leisure cruises in Japan.
  • Navix Line is established by the merger of JL and YSL.
The cruise ship Nippon Maru enters service.

Crew training school established in Manila.

MOL Training Center (the Philippines)
A strategic international tie-up called The Global Alliance (TGA) launches container shipping service.
MOL acquires a share in chemical tanker operator Tokyo Marine (now MOL Chemical Tankers Pte. Ltd.)
MOL and Navix Line merge, establish new Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd.

MOL Head Office building (Toranomon, Tokyo)

Early 2000s

Aggressive Investment in Resource and Energy Transport

After the 1999 merger with Navix Lines, which was particularly strong in transporting natural resources and energy, MOL aggressively invested in these fields, predicting China's economic development and increased demand for resources. We continued to scale up our fleet of LNG carriers, crude oil tankers, and dry bulkers that transport iron ore, coal, and other commodities.

Daibiru Corporation becomes a consolidated subsidiary of MOL.
  • Safety Operation Supporting Center is established at Head Office.

    Safety Operation Supporting Center (SOSC)
  • The Brazil Maru, the largest iron ore carrier at the time, enters service.

Mid 2000s-

China's Commodity Import Boom Surges and Wanes

MOL's aggressive investment in the field of natural resource and energy transport was successful. With the unprecedented marine transport boom brought about by China's surging commodity imports, we recorded historic profits in fiscal 2007. However, amid slowing economic growth worldwide and the oversupply of vessels following the economic crisis in 2008, the shipping market stumbled and has continued to struggle with ongoing stagnation. To respond to this vastly different business environment, MOL implemented Business Structural Reforms in the dry bulker business and decided to integrate the container shipping businesses of three Japanese shipping companies.

Next-generation vessel concept Senpaku ISHIN project announced.

ISHIN I (upper) ISHIN II (center) ISHIN III (lower)
  • New MOL Technology Research Center opens.
  • The first participation in FPSO.
The Emerald Ace, which represents a significant step forward in realizing ISHIN-I, enters service.
130th Anniversary
  • Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG), the world's most innovative fully automated container terminal, opens.
  • The Papua, the first LNG carrier built in China for a non-Chinese shipping company, enters service.
  • The methanol carriers Tamaraki Sun, Manchac Sun, and Cajun Sun enter service. These vessels are equipped with dual-fuel engines that can run on methanol and heavy oil.
  • World's first large-size ethane carrier, the Ethane Crystal, enter service.
  • World's largest containership, MOL Triumph, enters service.
  • World's largest FSRU, MOL FSRU Challenger, enters service.
  • Container Shipping Joint Venture, Ocean Network Express (ONE) starts business operations.
  • World's largest 20,000 TEU containership, the MOL Truth, receives the Ship of the Year 2017 award.
  • MOL-operated ice-breaking LNG carrier transports cargo from Russia's Yamal Peninsula to Asia via the northern sea route through the Bering Strait.

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