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Nippon Yusen

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Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha
Native name
Company typePublic K.K.
TYO: 9101
NSE: 9101
Nikkei 225 Component
FoundedSeptember 29, 1885; 138 years ago (1885-09-29)
HeadquartersMarunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Key people
Tadaaki Naito
(Chairman, Director)
Hitoshi Nagasawa
RevenueDecrease JP¥ 1,829 billion (US$ 16.5 billion) — FY 2019
Increase JP¥ 60.3 billion (US$ 543.4 million) — FY 2019
Number of employees
35,711 (as of March 31, 2019)
Footnotes / references
NYK Maritime Museum and NYK's Yokohama branch
NYK Line container

The Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (日本郵船株式会社, Nippon Yūsen kabushiki kaisha, lit.'Japan Mail Ship Company'), also known as NYK Line, is a Japanese shipping company. The company headquarters are located in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. It operates a fleet of over 800 ships, which includes container ships, tankers, bulk and woodchip carriers, roll-on/roll-off car carriers, reefer vessels, LNG carriers, and cruise ships. It is a member of the Ocean Network Express[2] and Mitsubishi Group.



The company traces its history back to the Tsukumo Shokai shipping company founded by the Tosa clan in 1870. In 1875, as the renamed Mitsubishi Shokai, the company inaugurated Japan's first passenger liner service, with a route from Yokohama to Shanghai; in that same year, the company name was changed to Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company. In 1885, a merger with Kyodo Unyu Kaisha (founded 1882) led to the adoption of the company's present name.[6]

The merged company had a fleet of 58 steamships and expanded its operations rapidly, first to other Asian ports and then worldwide, with a line service to Seattle established in 1896[7] and to London in 1899.[6]

The company's Katori Maru was used by Chinese Muslims to travel to Singapore on their way to Makkah for the Hajj in 1925. From there, the company had the pilgrims travel on board other Japanese steamships to Suez and then to Makkah. The company promised to take responsibility for all the necessary formalities and helped contact other local transportation agencies that could take the pilgrims to Makkah. Chinese pilgrims were promised a 20% discount for their tickets. A third-class ticket that sold for £5/10/0 would be £4/8/0, while a second-class ticket sold for £14/0/0 would be sold for £11/5/0.[8]


The majority of Japanese merchant ships, tankers, and liners sailed under the NYK banner in this period. Regular services linked Kobe and Yokohama with South America, Batavia, Melbourne, and Cape Town, with frequent crossings to San Francisco and Seattle. Other routes connected local Chinese cabotage vessels on the Chinese coasts and upper Yangtze River.

Ocean routes went east from Japan to Vancouver (Canada) or Seattle. Another way was to stop in Hawaii, which continued to San Francisco and the Panama Canal. The next commercial routes were south from Japan, across the East China Sea. These went to Southeast Asia, the China coasts, and towards India and the Indian Ocean, to Europe or Batavia (Dutch Indies), or Australia and New Zealand. The fastest services took 10 days from Yokohama to Seattle, and one month to Europe.

Local sea routes connected 78 home seaports (38 open to foreign trade). Yokohama, Kobe, and Osaka had the greatest importance for trading with Japan. These ports had the third, fourth, and eighth place in net tonnage registered in the world. Coal passed from Moji to Osaka and Yokohama. Karafuto timber represented a third part of local trade. Soybean products from Dairen and Ryojun arrived at Yokohama. The sugarcane of the South Seas Mandate and Formosa, cotton, salt, and minerals represented other important parts of these transport transactions. In 1926, Toyo Kisen Line (TKK), with its fleet of nine ships, merged with NYK. The current funnel livery was introduced in 1929. The company also ran services connecting metropolitan Japan to its exterior provinces (Chosen, Karafuto, Kwantung, Formosa and South Mandate) of the Empire.

From 1924, all new cargo ships for NYK were motor ships.[9] NYK introduced its first passenger motor ships in 1929, but continued to buy a mixture of steam and motor passenger ships until 1939.[10]

In World War II, the NYK Line provided military transport and hospital ships for the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. Many vessels were sunk by the Allied navies, and installations and ports were attacked from the air. Only 37 NYK ships survived the war. The company lost 185 ships in support of military operations in the Pacific.[11] Before the war, NYK had 36 passenger ships;[10] by the time of Japan's surrender only one, the motor ship Hikawa Maru, survived.[12]

NYK's surviving vessels and equipment were confiscated by the Allied authorities as reparations, or taken by recently liberated Asian states in 1945-46. Shipping Control Authority for the Japanese Merchant Marine requisitioned Hikawa Maru as a transport ship to repatriate Japanese soldiers and civilians from territories that had been liberated from Japanese occupation.[12]

Fleet until 1945[edit]

The NYK tonnage expanded in bursts, responding to changes economic conditions and perceived changes in the market for passenger liner travel. The evolution of the fleet mirrors some of those developments. In the following lists, the dates of maiden voyages are indicated with each ship's name.[13]

Amongst the many ships in the early NYK fleet, some names comprise serial categories.[14] Some ships were named after Shinto shrines, and others were named after ancient provinces of Japan, cities of Japan, mountains of Japan or islands of Japan. Some ships had explicitly non-Japanese names, such as ships named after cities.

Fleet in post-war era[edit]

The modern NYK tonnage encompasses a variety of ship names.[14] Some names form series, as in those ships named after flowers, stars, star constellations, and provinces of pre-Meiji Japan.


Head office of NYK Line (日本郵船) at Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
The NYK liner Hikawa Maru preserved at Naka-ku, Yokohama

By the mid-1950s NYK ships were again seen around the world.

As the demand for passenger ships dwindled in the 1960s, NYK expanded its cargo operation, running Japan's first container ship Hakone Maru on a route to California in 1968 and soon establishing container ship routes to many other ports. NYK became a partner in Nippon Cargo Airlines in 1978, and in 1985, added United States container train service in cooperation with Southern Pacific.

NYK revived its passenger ship business in 1989 with cruise ships operated by its newly formed subsidiary Crystal Cruises.

In 1990 NYK resumed passenger services under its own name when MS Asuka entered service on the Japanese cruise market.[64][65] In 2006 Asuka was replaced by the much larger Asuka II, formerly Crystal Cruises' Crystal Harmony.[66][67]

At the end of March 2008, the NYK Group was operating about 776 major ocean vessels, as well as fleets of planes, trains, and trucks. The company's shipping fleet includes around 155 containerships, 286 bulk carriers, 55 woodchip carriers, 113 car carriers, 21 reefer carriers, 78 tankers, 30 LNG carriers, and three cruise ships. NYK's revenue in fiscal 2007 was about US$26 billion, and as a group NYK employs about 55,000 people worldwide. The company has offices in 240 places in 27 countries, warehouses on nearly every continent, and harbor operations in Asia, North America, and Europe. NYK head office is based in Tokyo, and has regional headquarters in London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, and São Paulo.

During the first decade of 2000s, NYK reached a remarkable position within the Liner ranking, as one of top twelve companies in the number of containers carried, number one RORO Carrier, and one of the main player in LNG and break bulk transport fields, plus several prominent awards for its cruise service quality.

In April 2014, eight container sister ships of a new series were commissioned, and two more units were inserted as options in the construction contract. Both options were converted into firm orders in July 2014. The building began in spring 2015 at the shipyard Japan Marine United in Kure, Hiroshima. The first delivered ship of the ten units to be built within end of 2018, was mv NYK Blue Jay launched in 2016.[68] All 10 vessels received names of bird species (therefore called the NYK-bird class). The ships are used on the European Far East route and are the largest container ships built in Japan so far, having a maximum container capacity of 14,026 TEU.

In May 2021 NYK Line became the first Japanese shipping firm to join the Sustainable Shipping Initiative's Ship Recycling Transparency Initiative, which incorporates the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.[69]

The NYK car carrier Galaxy Leader

On 19 November 2023, the NYK operated vessel Galaxy Leader, while sailing in Red Sea en route to India, was hijacked by the Iranian backed Houthi on the grounds it was an Israeli owned vessel. In May 2024 the owners asked the Houthis to release the crew. [70]

Merger of container operations[edit]

On Monday, 31 October 2016, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Mitsui OSK Lines and Nippon Yusen Kaisha agreed to merge their container shipping business by establishing a completely new joint venture company. The integration included their overseas terminal activities. The joint venture company operates under the name "Ocean Network Express" (ONE), with the company headquarters in Japan (Tokyo), a global business operations headquarters in Singapore and regional headquarters in United Kingdom (London), United States (Richmond, VA), Hong Kong, and Brazil (São Paulo).[71] The new company started its operations on 1 April 2018.[72]

Container vessels fleet[edit]

NYK Virgo
Container ship classes of NYK Line
Ship class Built Capacity (TEU) Ships in class Notes
NYK Vega-class 2006–2007 9,012 4 Operated by Ocean Network Express
NYK Oceanus-class 2007–2008 8,628–9,040 4 Operated by Ocean Network Express
NYK Adonis-class 2010–2011 9,592 3 Operated by Ocean Network Express
NYK Bird-class 2016–2019 14,000 15 Operated by Ocean Network Express

Roll-on/roll-off division[edit]

Heritage Leader vehicle carrier at Southampton

NYK is also the world's largest roll-on/roll-off ocean carrier. NYK's RORO fleet has a 660,000 car capacity which represents just over 17% of the global car transportation fleet capacity. Over 123 vessels are deployed worldwide transporting cars[73] manufactured in Japan, US, EU towards Asia, Middle East, North & South America,[74] Australia, Africa and Europe. In addition to brand new cars, High and Heavy cargo (such as excavators, mobile cranes, new and used trucks and buses, trailers, Mafi roll trailers) and break bulk static pieces are carried all over the globe by NYK.

Advertisement of Seattle, Washington sailings, March 1918
Advertisement circa 1930s
Advertisement circa 1935

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New NYK boss Hitoshi Nagasawa gets tough on ethics". Trade Winds. 20 June 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Corporate Profile". NYK Line. Archived from the original on January 10, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  3. ^ "Directors and Auditors". NYK Line. Archived from the original on January 10, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  4. ^ "Company Snapshot". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  5. ^ "Financials". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  6. ^ a b NYK: History.
  7. ^ Shinmasu, Ikuo (May 14, 2022), "Part 5, The Great Seattle Shipping Route", North American Post
  8. ^ Li, Gang (2021). The Hui Muslims' Identity Negotiations (PhD Thesis). University of Groningen. pp. 212–213.
  9. ^ Talbot-Booth 1942, pp. 516–517.
  10. ^ a b Talbot-Booth 1942, pp. 515–516.
  11. ^ NYK Europe: Europe: Corporate Profile, history
  12. ^ a b Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander; Cundall, Peter (1998–2011). "IJN Hospital Ship Hikawa Maru: Tabular Record of Movement". Japanese Hospital Ships. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  13. ^ Although conventionally used today, unofficial names or sobriquets like Yamashiro Maru II or Yamashiro III are not used here, since each ship's official name was simply Yamashiro Maru. Instead, the year of the ship's maiden voyage or year the vessel entered service is used to tell the ships apart when names are repeated (as in article names), hence Yamashiro Maru (1899), Yamashiro Maru (1912) and Yamashiro Maru (1963) — not Yamashiro Maru, Yamashiro Maru II and Yamashiro Maru III.
  14. ^ a b c ShipsList: NYK Line fleet.
  15. ^ Ponsonby-Fane 1931, p. 48.
  16. ^ a b c d e Jordan 2006, p. 258.
  17. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Hie Maru, ID#4036219.
  18. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Heian Maru, ID#4036813.
  19. ^ Miramar Ship Index: HIkawa Maru, ID#4035370.
  20. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Kasuga Maru, ID#4035370.
  21. ^ N.Y.K. Line S. S. Kitano Maru, Einstein Archives Online, named after the shrine Kitano Tenmangū
  22. ^ Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Nitta Maru, ID#4046813.
  23. ^ Ponsonby-Fane 1931, p. 50.
  24. ^ Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Tatsuta Maru, ID#4035362.
  25. ^ Ponsonby-Fane 1931, p. 39.
  26. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Yawata Maru, ID#4047477.
  27. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard (1964). Visiting Famous Shrines in Japan. Kyoto: Kamikamo. p. 365.
  28. ^ N.b. NYK ships named after the former provinces of Japan or kunikyū class
  29. ^ Ponsonby-Fane 1931, p. 8.
  30. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Awa Maru, ID#4004181[dead link].
  31. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Awa Maru, ID#4049894.
  32. ^ Ponsonby-Fane 1931, p. 9.
  33. ^ Peterson, Rick. Noto Maru, Hell ship
  34. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Noto Maru, ID#4039723.
  35. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Tango Maru, ID#4009330.
  36. ^ Ponsonby-Fane 1931, p. 45.
  37. ^ Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Asama Maru, ID#4035342.
  38. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane 1931, Appendix, p. 3.
  39. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Asuka Maru, ID#4030494.
  40. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Calcutta Maru, ID#4020373.
  41. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Dakar Maru, ID#4026933.
  42. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Durban Maru, ID#4026431.
  43. ^ Jordan 1931, p. 257
  44. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Hakone Maru, ID#4028453.
  45. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Lima Maru, ID#4026947.
  46. ^ Sinking of Lisbon Maru; Miramar Ship Index: Lisbon Maru, ID#4027254.
  47. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Lyons Maru, ID#4026949.
  48. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Korea Maru, ID#2161196.
  49. ^ "Rosetta (1880)" (PDF). P&O Heritage.
  50. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Siberia Maru, ID #2117179.
  51. ^ Ponsonby-Fane 1931, p. 48-49.
  52. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Toyama Maru, ID#4018180.
  53. ^ ShipHistory: Yoshida Maru, April 26, 1944; Archived January 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  54. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Yoshida Maru, ID#4048724.
  55. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj NYK: fleet list
  56. ^ New Car Carrier Aries Leader Delivered
  57. ^ NYK-Nippon Oil Joint Project: The World First Solar-Powered Ship Sails Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  58. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Asama Maru, ID#5026499.
  59. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Astoria Maru, ID#5027572.
  60. ^ ShipPhotos, NYK: ship at Southampton, 2006;
  61. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Galaxy Leader, ID#9237307.[dead link]
  62. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Hakone Maru, ID#6817194.
  63. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Hikawa Maru, ID#7380590.
  64. ^ Asklander, Micke. "M/S Asuka". Fakta om Fartyg (in Swedish). Archived from the original on January 1, 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  65. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Asuka, ID#8913162.
  66. ^ Asklander, Micke. "M/S Crystal Harmony (1990)". Fakta om Fartyg (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  67. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Crystal Harmony, ID#8806204.
  68. ^ McAlpine, Andrew (16 June 2016). "Introducing NYK Blue Jay". Container Shipping and Trade. Archived from the original on 11 October 2016.
  69. ^ Labrut, Michele (May 19, 2021). "NYK joins ship recycling transparency initiative". Seatrade Maritime News. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  70. ^ "Two more MSC ships targeted by the Houthis". 8 May 2024.
  71. ^ Wackett, Mike (3 October 2017). "Creation of Ocean Network Express will be a turning point for NYK, says president". The Loadstar.
  72. ^ Chambers, Sam (31 May 2017). "Japan's big three lines christen new merged container entity Ocean Network Express". Splash 247.
  73. ^ Ken Belson (13 July 2012). "Around the World With 5,500 Cars". New York Times.
  74. ^ "NYK Line Starts South America RoRo Service from Port Everglades". World Maritime News.


Further reading[edit]

  • Cook, Richard; Oleniuk, Marcus (2007). Around the World in 40 Feet, Two Hundred Days in the Life of a 40 ft NYK Shipping Container. WordAsia Publishing. ISBN 978-988-97392-3-2.

External links[edit]

Image gallery[edit]