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K Line

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Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd.
"K" Line
Company typePublic KK
TYO: 9107
OSE: 9107
NAG: 9107
FSE: 9107
Founded1919; 105 years ago (1919)
FounderKojiro Matsukata
HeadquartersUchisaiwaichō, ,
Key people
  • Iyazu Tokogawa (CEO)
  • Shigeru Masuda, MBA (COO)
  • Hideyoshi Yamamoto (CFO)
SubsidiariesInternational Transportation Service
K Line container
Smokestack of a K Line vessel.
A K Line container mounted on a trailer is on a road in Belgium.

Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. (川崎汽船株式会社, Kawasaki Kisen Kabushiki gaisha, branded as "K" Line) is a Japanese transportation company. It owns a fleet that includes dry cargo ships (bulk carriers), container ships, liquefied natural gas carriers, Ro-Ro ships, tankers, and container terminals. It used to be the fourteenth largest container transportation and shipping company in the world, before becoming part of Ocean Network Express in 2017.


House flag


"K" Line traces its origin to Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which itself was born in 1878, when founder and entrepreneur Kawasaki Shōzō established Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard in Tokyo, Japan, which, eighteen years later, in 1896, was incorporated as Kawasaki Dockyard Co., Ltd.

The shipping activities were developed when Kawasaki Dockyard Co., Ltd. (predecessor of Kawasaki Heavy Industries)'s President Kojiro Matsukata, decided to develop shipping services so as to provide business to Kawasaki Dockyard and to serve Japan's national industrial and trade interests.[1]

To do so, he placed Kawasaki Kisen, Kawasaki Zosen and Kokusai Kisen under joint management to build a stronger fleet of 40 to 50 ships serving the Atlantic, North and South America, Africa and the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.

The three firms' initials were combined to form the moniker "K Line" in 1921.

K Line founder, Kojiro Matsukata, was also known as an art collector. The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo's Ueno Park was established around the core of Matsukata's private collection. In addition, the Tokyo National Museum houses his extensive collection of Ukiyo-eprints.[2]

In 1926, according to Lloyds, the newly established "K" Line reached the rank of 13th in the world, behind compatriots NYK (9th) but ahead of O.S.K. (14th).

By the end of World War II, Kawasaki Kisen had lost 56 vessels; 12 survived.

Prior to World War II, the holding company Kawasaki Heavy Industries was part of the Kobe Kawasaki zaibatsu, which included Kawasaki Steel and Kawasaki Kisen. After the war, KHI became part of the DKB Group (keiretsu).


During that vital recovery period, "K" Line steadily returned to the building and operation of ships, reestablished bases of operation around the world, increased earnings and took other steps to restore corporate strength and vibrancy of the company.


After the merger with Iino Kisen, "K" Line was newly capitalized at ¥9 billion and controlled a fleet of 104 ships, 55 of which were also owned by "K" Line. The merger gave "K" Line a solid foundation to advance dynamically into the future both as one of the world's largest shipping lines in terms of fleet size and as a well-balanced, integrated organization.

K-Line containers


K Line opens International Transportation Service, a container terminal company in the Port of Long Beach.

The Car Carrier transport division was inaugurated with the launch of the new Roll-on/roll-off vessel Toyota Maru No. 10. K-Line would thereafter enlarge the fleet up to 70 Car carriers vessels. All owned RORO vessels started to include in the first part of their names the word “Highway” (opposite to its container fleet's vessels that include the word “Bridge” into their names), to symbolize a link in between Japan and the rest of the world served by sea.[3]


KESS - K Line Europe Short Sea is inaugurated in July 2003 in Germany, as a dedicated feeder operator in Europe specialized in brand new cars shipping in between European, Scandinavian, Baltic and Mediterranean ports.[4]

The company tonnage is composed of 11 Roll-on/roll-off ships.

K-line container ship steaming into San Francisco Bay, June 2007


KL Saltfjord in Bergen harbour

K Line Offshore AS was founded in Arendal, Norway in October 2007 as a subsidiary of K Line to provide offshore support services to oil and gas fields. They have commissioned new ships suitable for oil and gas fields in ultra-deep water, harsh environments and/or remote areas.

On September 30, 2007, Shuichiro Maeda, K-Line president, said the company will build 10 cargo ships to be manned by an all-Filipino officers and crew. The vessels are expected to be finished by 2010. It will employ 7,000 Filipinos in the next 4 years (3,330 officers and 3,600 ratings or crew). K-Line will build the K-Line Maritime Academy-Philippines operational in February 2008 and is intended to train at least 10,000 seafarers a year.[5]

K Line containers aboard a Chinese boat on the Yangtze in Wuhan


In 2017, K Line, Nippon Yusen (NYK) and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) announced that they would merge and jointly operate their global container shipping services as Ocean Network Express (ONE), in order to better compete against other global container shipping groups. ONE would merge all container shipping services of the three companies, as well as their port terminal operating subsidiaries in various countries, except in Japan, while keeping their other shipping services separate. ONE began operations on April 1, 2018.[6][7] with the company headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, an business operation headquarters in Singapore and regional headquarters in: London, United Kingdom; Richmond, Virginia; and São Paulo, Brazil.

K-Line offshore ship At The Harbor of Aberdeen,United Kingdom
Hull of vessel 'K-Line Diamond Highway' burned on 28 April 2023 in baranagy Punta Engano, Lapu Lapu City. Author: Bart Sakwerda
Hull of vessel 'K-Line Diamond Highway' burned on 28 April 2023 in baranagy Punta Engano, Lapu Lapu City
Car Carrier Euphrates Highway


On 23 July, KESS car carrier Makassar Highway[8] ran hard aground at full speed in the Tjust archipelago near Loftahammar, Sweden, causing an oil spill.[9][10] By his own account, the captain had ordered a course close to land, far from established shipping lanes, in order to gain mobile phone reception. The ship's satellite communication system and black box were inoperable when departing Cuxhaven for Södertälje, and alarm systems had been disabled.[11] The Swedish Coast Guard recovered approximately 7,000 litres (1,500 imp gal; 1,800 US gal) of oil by 30 July,[12] but thousands of litres of oil nevertheless washed up on the coast.[13] An estimated 14,000 litres (3,100 imp gal; 3,700 US gal) of oil were spilled.[10][14] The ship was towed to Oskarshamn, where its cargo of 1,325 vehicles were offloaded. The chief mate was taken into custody and accepted a fine for intoxication and recklessness in maritime traffic.[15][16] His blood alcohol content by mass at the time of the accident was estimated at 1.15 permille, based on samples taken after the accident.[17] The oil spill is also being investigated as an environmental crime.[14]

A few month earlier, the Makassar Highway had collided with the dredger "Xiang Wang Cai 17" near the Chinese city of Zhangzhou. According to investigations, the Makassar Highway was also responsible for the collision.[18]


On 15 June 2019, car carrier Diamond Highway caught fire while sailing in between the ports of Singapore and Batangas.[19]
Philippines Coast guard was alerted, and a mission to rescue the 25 members of the Crew was undertaken by another car carrier sailing in proximity.[20] The ship had to be abandoned, and later towed to dry dock. The reason why the fire broke out is unknown, but possibly related to the cargo on board.

On 2 August 2019, K-Line was convicted and fined AUD34.5 million for criminal cartel conduct by the Australian Federal Court.[21] The cartel, which was in place from 1997, had fixed prices for the transport of vehicles into Australia. The other cartel participant, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), was also convicted and fined in 2017.


Around midnight on July 26, 2023, a fire broke out on the Fremantle Highway car transporter operated by "K" Lines. The ship, which came from the port of Bremerhaven, Germany was on its way to the Suez Canal and, according to the Dutch coast guard, was around 27 kilometers north of the Dutch Wadden Sea island of Ameland at that time. The ship had 3,783 vehicles on board, including 498 electric cars.[22] The cause of the fire is unknown, according to the Coast Guard; Media reports that an electric car had started the fire.

During the extinguishing work on board, one crew member died and 16 were injured. The Dutch Coast Guard rescued the remaining 22 members of the crew.

The extinguishing work was difficult because the bow is 30 meters high. An environmental disaster was feared if the ship would have sunk.[23] After the fire had burned out, Fremantle Highway was towed into Eemshaven, Groningen (Netherlands) on 3 August.[24]


"K"-Line fleet consists of about 500 ships, despite by the segments

Offshore support vessels[edit]

K Line Offshore AS in Arendal, a subsidiary of K Line for offshore support services of oil and gas fields is operating the following ships:

  • KL Arendalfjord - Delivered 24 October 2008
  • KL Brevikfjord - Delivered 24 September 2010
  • KL Sandefjord - Delivered 7 January 2011
  • KL Brisfjord - Delivered 13 January 2011
  • KL Brofjord - Delivered 5 April 2011
  • KL Saltfjord - Delivered 14 April 2011
  • KL Barentsfjord - Delivered 28 June 2011

Container ships[edit]

Container ship classes of K Line
Ship class Built Capacity (TEU) Ships in class Notes
Hannover Bridge-class 2006–2012 8,212-8,970 13 Operated by Ocean Network Express
Millau Bridge-class 2015–2018 13,900 10 Operated by Ocean Network Express
MV Orient King under repair at the shipyard of Imabari, Japan.


  1. ^ "History" (PDF). Kline.co.jp.
  2. ^ "History". Global.kawasaki.com.
  3. ^ Paris, Costas (7 March 2019). "K Line cuts chartered fleet". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2020-01-02.
  4. ^ "News". Cmport.com.
  5. ^ "Japan firm builds 10 ships to be manned by Filipinos". GMA News Online. October 2007.
  6. ^ Lopzez, Edwin (May 31, 2017). "Japanese shippers K Line, MOL, NYK to merge as ONE". Supply Chain Dive.
  7. ^ MI News Network (April 2, 2018). "ONE – Integration Of K-Line, MOL & NYK Commences Shipping Services". MarineInsight.
  8. ^ "Vessel details for: MAKASSAR HIGHWAY (Vehicles Carrier)". MarineTraffic. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  9. ^ Chambers, Sam (24 July 2018). "K Line car carrier hard aground in southern Sweden". Splash 247. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Swedish coast guard works to clean up 14,000-litre oil spill". The Local. 30 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  11. ^ "Nya uppgifter: Fartyget hade trasigt kommunikationssystem" [New details: The ship's communication system was broken]. Swedish Television (in Swedish). 1 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  12. ^ Jiang, Jason (30 July 2018). "Oil spill detected as K Line car carrier refloats". Splash 247. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  13. ^ Jiang, Jason (1 August 2018). "Leaking K Line car carrier under tow". Splash 247. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  14. ^ a b ""En fullständigt vansinnig kurs"" ["A completely insane course"]. Barometern (in Swedish). 2 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Tidslinje för Operation Makassar Highway" [Timeline for Operation Makassar Highway]. Swedish Coast Guard (in Swedish). August 2, 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Skandalen Makassar Highway – dag för dag" [The scandal of Makassar Highway – day by day]. Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). 2 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  17. ^ Karanikas, Mikael; Zachau, Jörgen (9 July 2019). Slutrapport RS2019:04 [Final Report RS2019:04] (PDF) (Report) (in Swedish). Swedish Accident Investigation Authority. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  18. ^ "Login - THB". www.thb.info. Retrieved 2023-07-26.
  19. ^ Williams2019-06-19T12:58:00+01:00, Marcus. "Fire on K-Line car carrier forces crew to abandon ship". Automotive Logistics. Retrieved 2019-11-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ "Abandoned car carrier adrift UPDATE Jun 17". FleetMon.com. Retrieved 2019-11-19.
  21. ^ Commission, Australian Competition and Consumer (2019-08-02). "K-Line convicted of criminal cartel conduct and fined $34.5 million". www.accc.gov.au. Retrieved 2024-02-26.
  22. ^ "Fire on car carrier ablaze off Dutch coast now less intense". Reuters. July 29, 2023. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  23. ^ Staff (2023-07-26). "One killed as ship carrying 3,000 cars catches fire off Dutch coast". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-07-26.
  24. ^ "Burnt-out freighter arrives at Eemshaven; €300 million in cargo los". NL Times. Retrieved 3 August 2023.

External links[edit]