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FreightWaves Classics/Fallen Flags: American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines served the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

FreightWaves Classics/Fallen Flags: American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines served the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

The SS Excalibur was renamed the USS Joseph Hewes and provided service in 1941-42. (Photo: ssmaritime.com)

There are many people interested in former transportation companies, whether they were trucking companies, railroads, airlines or ocean lines. These companies are called “fallen flags,” and the term describes companies whose corporate names have been dissolved through merger, bankruptcy or liquidation.

Today’s FreightWaves Classics profiles another fallen flag – American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines. American Export Lines merged with Isbrandtsen Co. in 1964 to form American Export & Isbrandtsen Lines. A year later it changed its name to American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines.

The cover of an AEL timetable. (Image: timetableimages.com)
The cover of an AEL timetable. (Image: timetableimages.com)

American Export Lines 

World War I ended on November 11, 1918; the Export Steamship Corporation was founded in 1919. It began cargo shipping services to the Mediterranean from New York. The word “American” was added in the 1920s to highlight its ties to the United States. 

In 1931, four cargo-passenger liners (Excalibur, Excambion, Exeter and Exochorda – known as the “Four Aces”) went into service. Unfortunately for the company, between the time the ships were ordered and their delivery, the Great Depression began (and deepened). The company went through a series of reorganizations; in 1936 it became American Export Lines. 

During World War II American Export Lines operated its ships and others as transports under the U.S. War Shipping Administration. With the exception of the Exochorda, the ships were sunk during the war as a result of enemy fire. 

This American Export Lines advertisement from World War II points to the company's ships being used by the government. 
(Image: periodpaper.com)
This American Export Lines advertisement from World War II points to the company’s ships being used by the government.
(Image: periodpaper.com)

After the war the Exochorda was sold to Turkish Maritime Lines and renamed. The line’s lost ships were replaced with C-3 class troop transports with the same names. They were refitted with luxury appointments for 125 passengers, as well as sufficient cargo-carrying capacity.

At its height the company provided nearly 200 scheduled sailings each year from U.S. North Atlantic ports. It had large modern liners that sailed across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea (service every two weeks – principally to Barcelona, Marseilles, Naples, Alexandria, Beirut, Iskenderun, Latakia, Athens and Genoa). In addition to its luxurious liners, it also had a fleet of well-equipped freighters that served their routes regularly and frequently.

An Isbrandtsen-Moller pier. (Photo: freshplaza.com)
An Isbrandtsen-Moller pier. (Photo: freshplaza.com)

Isbrandtsen Steamship Company

Hans Isbrandtsen and his cousin A. P. Møller, the shipping magnate who formed the great Mærsk Line, started a joint venture in 1919. They founded the Isbrandtsen-Moller Co. (ISMOLCO) in New York. 

In 1928 ISMOLCO began to rapidly grow after the company signed a long-term agreement with Ford Motor Corporation to ship auto parts and general cargo to Japan, China and the Philippines via the Panama Canal. In 1939 Isbrandtsen founded the Isbrandtsen Steamship Company to operate ships in areas not served by ISMOLCO.

In 1940, the joint venture changed when Møller’s son Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller was made a partner. This led to the termination of the joint venture in 1941. Isbrandtsen focused on the Isbrandtsen Steamship Company, while Møller and his son founded the Interseas Shipping Co., Inc. It was the predecessor to the Moller Steamship Company, an agent for the Mærsk Line in the United States. 

Interseas Shipping Co., Inc. operated mainly in the Atlantic, while Isbrandtsen Steamship Company operated primarily in the Far East. World War II caused changes at nearly every major shipping line in the world, including these. 

An Isbrandtsen ship steams on. (Photo: oceanweatherservices.com)
An Isbrandtsen ship steams on. (Photo: oceanweatherservices.com)

American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines

Jakob Isbrandtsen (Hans’ son) took control of Isbrandtsen Steamship Company following his father’s death in 1953. In 1960 the company bought American Export Lines. The United States Maritime Administration approved the acquisition in 1962. Two years later Jakob Isbrandtsen merged Isbrandtsen Co. and American Export Lines, forming American Export & Isbrandtsen Lines. In 1965 the company’s name was changed to American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines.

Jakob Isbrandtsen had also become the majority stakeholder in Ward Industries in 1960. In 1964 he restructured the company; and in 1967 he formed American Export Industries, Inc. as a holding company to manage American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines and all support for his fleet operations, including container services, port operations and fleet logistics. American Export Industries spun off its holdings in 1971 and returned to being American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines. However, this merger ended in 1973.

A page from a 1963 company brochure. (Image: Hoboken Historical Museum)
A page from a 1963 company brochure. (Image: Hoboken Historical Museum)

American Export Lines (again)

American Export Lines (AEL) re-emerged after American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines was dissolved in 1973. The next year, AEL sold its Staten Island Marine Terminal to the City of New York. Unfortunately, heavy financial losses continued, and the company was unable to meet its debilitating debt payments. AEL declared bankruptcy in July 1977; Farrell Lines acquired its port operations in New York City and its remaining ships a year later. 

In July 2000, Royal P&O Nedlloyd acquired Farrell Lines. Just over five years later (August 2005) Royal P&O Nedlloyd was acquired by A.P. Moller-Maersk Group. 

Maersk container ship entering Los Angeles harbor. (Photo: Port of Los Angeles)
Maersk container ship entering Los Angeles harbor. (Photo: Port of Los Angeles)

Legacy

Under its various names, American Export Lines was the leading U.S.-flagged shipping company between the U.S. East Coast and the Mediterranean from 1919 to 1977. It offered both cargo ship and passenger ship services.

The Stag Hound, built for American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines in 1968. (Photo: shipsnostalgia.com)
The Stag Hound, built for American Export-Isbrandtsen Lines in 1968. (Photo: shipsnostalgia.com)


Źródło

22 December 2021, 20:00