Nippon Yusen

Nippon Yusen
NYK Services logo.
NYK Maritime Museum and NYK's Yokohama branch

Japan-based Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (日本郵船株式会社 Nippon Yūsen Kabushiki Kaisha?)[1] (TYO: 9101) (Japan Mail Shipping Line) or NYK Line, is one of the largest shipping companies in the world. It is a core Mitsubishi company. The company has its headquarters in Chiyoda, Tokyo.[2]




The company traces its history back to the Tsukumo Shokai Shipping company founded by the Tosa clan in 1870. In 1875, as the re-named Mitsubishi Shokai, the company inaugurated Japan's first passenger liner service, with a route from Yokohama to Shanghai; and 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.[3]

The merged company had a fleet of 58 steamships and expanded its operations rapidly, first to other ports of the East and then worldwide, with a liner service to London being inaugurated in 1899.[3]


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

Advertising graphic art ephemera (circa 1930s)

Ocean routes went east from Japan to Vancouver (Canada) or Seattle (USA). Another way was to stop in Hawaii, and continue to San Francisco and the Panama Canal. The next commercial routes were south from Japan, across the East China Sea. These went to South East 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 ten days from Yokohama to Seattle, and one month to Europe.

Advertising/graphic art circa 1935

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. Soy bean products from Dairen and Ryojun arrived at Yokohama. The sugar cane of the South Pacific Mandate and Formosa, cotton, salt and minerals represented other important parts of these transport transactions. 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. During World War II the NYK Line operated a military transport service for Japanese Army and Navy troops. Many vessels were sunk by the Allied navies, and installations and ports were attacked from the air. Its surviving vessels and equipment were confiscated by the Allied authorities, as reparations, or taken by recently liberated Asian states, during 1945-46.

World War II resulted in the destruction of much of the fleet. Only 37 vessels remained in NYK's fleet. NYK lost 185 ships which were supporting military operations in the Pacific.[4]

Selected ships

The NYK fleet expanded in bursts, responding to changed 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.[5]

Amongst the many ships in the early NYK fleet, some names comprise serial categories.[6] 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, as in ships named after cities

Shinto shrines
Chichibu Maru (19__).[7]
Hie Maru (1930).[8]
Heian Maru (1930).[9]
Hikawa Maru (1930).[10]
Kasuga Maru (1940).[11]
Nitta Maru (1939).[12]
Tatsuta Maru (1930).[13]
Terukuni Maru (1930).[14]
Yawata Maru (1939)[15]

Awa Maru (1899).[17]
Awa Maru (1943).[18]
Kaga Maru (19__).[19]
Noto Maru (1934).[20]
Tango Maru (1905).[21]

Asama Maru (1929).[22]
Maya Maru (19__).[23]
Rokko Maru (19__).[23]

Lisbon Maru (1920).[30]
Lyons Maru (1920).[31]

Korea Maru (1901).[32]
Kyushu Maru (1862).[6]
Siberia Maru (1901).[33]
Taiyo Maru (19__).[34]
Toyama Maru (1915).[35]
Yoshida Maru (1941).[36]


Head office of NYK Line (日本郵船), at Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
NYK vehicles carrier Galaxy Leader dockside at Bremerhaven in Germany (December 2006).
NYK vehicles carrier Rhea Leader

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 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 restarted operating passengers under its own brand when Asuka entered service on the Japanese cruise market.[37] In 2006 Asuka was replaced by the much larger Asuka II, formerly Crystal Cruises' Crystal Harmony.[38]

NYK is the tenth largest container transportation and shipping company in the world.

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 $26 billion, and as a group NYK employs about 55,000 people worldwide. The company has offices in 240 locations in 27 countries, warehouses on nearly every continent, and harbor operations in Asia, North America, and Europe. NYK is based in Tokyo and has regional headquarters in London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, and São Paulo. However the company has been badly affected by the global recession.(see Japan`s Big 3 see red)

Selected ships in post-war fleet

The modern NYK fleet encompasses a variety of ship names.[6] Some names comprise series, as in those ships named after flowers, stars, star constellations, and provinces of pre-Meiji of Japan.

ACX Cherry (1994).[39]
ACX Hibiscus (1997).[39]
ACX Jasmine (1996).[39]
ACX Lily (1990).[39]
ACX Magnolia (1998).[39]
ACX Marguerite (1997).[39]
ACX Salvia (1997).[39]

NYK Altair (2010).[39]
NYK Antares (1997).[39]
NYK Canopus (1998).[39]
NYK Deneb (2007).[39]
NYK Rigel (2009).[39]
NYK Sirius (1998).[39]
NYK Vega (2006).[39]

Auriga Leader (2008).[40]
Andromeda Leader (2007).[39]
Apollon Leader (2007).[39]
Cepheus Leader .[39]
NYK Leo (2002).[39]
NYK Orion (2008).[39]
NYK Pegasus (2003).[39]
NYK Phoenix (2003).[39]
NYK Virgo (2007).[39]

Iga Maru (1996).[39]
Izu Maru (1997).[39]
Izumo Maru (1997).[39]
Kaga Maru (1988).[39]
Sanuki Maru (1997).[39]
Settsu Maru (1997).[39]
Shima Maru (1997).[39]

Asama Maru (1954).[41]
Astoria Maru (1952).[42]
Galaxy Leader (2002).[43]
Zeus Leader (2009).[39]

See also

Portal icon Tokyo portal
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  • John Wilson
  • New Carissa
  • Asama Maru class ocean liner
  • Hikawa Maru class ocean liner
  • Terukuni Maru class ocean liner


  1. ^ NYK Line official site: Company Profile.
  2. ^ "Tokyo (Headquarters)." NYK Line. Retrieved on January 20, 2010.
  3. ^ a b NYK: History.
  4. ^ NYK Europe: Europe: Corporate Profile, history
  5. ^ A note on disambiguating ships with the same name on article texts: 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.
  6. ^ a b c ShipsList: NYK Line fleet.
  7. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1931). The Nomenclature of the N.Y.K. Fleet, p. 48.
  8. ^ Jordan, Roger. (2006). The World's Merchant Fleets, 1939: The Particulars And Wartime Fates of 6,000 Ships, p. 258; Miramar Ship Index: Hie Maru, ID#4036219.
  9. ^ Jordan, p. 258; Miramar Ship Index: Heian Maru, ID#4036813.
  10. ^ Miramar Ship Index: HIkawa Maru, ID#4035370.
  11. ^ Jordan, p. 258; Miramar Ship Index: Kasuga Maru, ID#4035370.
  12. ^ Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Nitta Maru, ID#4046813.
  13. ^ Jordan, p. 258; Ponsonby-Fane, p. 50; Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Tatsuta Maru, ID#4035362.
  14. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Nomenclature, p. 39.
  15. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Yawata Maru, ID#4047477.
  16. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1964). Visiting Famous Shrines in Japan, p. 365; n.b., NYK ships named after the former provinces of Japan or kunikyū class
  17. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Nomenclature, pp. 8; Miramar Ship Index: Awa Maru, ID#4004181.
  18. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Awa Maru, ID#4049894.
  19. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Nomenclature, p. 9.
  20. ^ Peterson, Rick. Noto Maru, Hell ship; Miramar Ship Index: Noto Maru, ID#4039723.
  21. ^ Jordan, p. 258; Miramar Ship Index: Tango Maru, ID#4009330.
  22. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Nomenclature, p. 45; Haworth, R.B. Miramar Ship Index: Asama Maru, ID#4035342.
  23. ^ a b Ponsonby-Fane, Nomenclature, Appendix, p. 3.
  24. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Asuka Maru, ID#4030494.
  25. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Calcutta Maru, ID#4020373.
  26. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Dakar Maru, ID#4026933.
  27. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Durban Maru, ID#4026431.
  28. ^ Jordan, p. 257; Miramar Ship Index: Hakone Maru, ID#4028453.
  29. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Lima Maru, ID#4026947.
  30. ^ Sinking of Lisbon Maru; Miramar Ship Index: Lisbon Maru, ID#4027254.
  31. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Lyons Maru, ID#4026949.
  32. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Korea Maru, ID#2161196.
  33. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Siberia Maru, ID #2117179.
  34. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Nomenclature, pp. 48-49.
  35. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Toyama Maru, ID#4018180.
  36. ^ ShipHistory: Yoshida Maru, April 26, 1944; Miramar Ship Index: Yoshida Maru, ID#4048724.
  37. ^ Askander, Micke. "M/S Asuka," Fakta om Fartyg (Swedish); Miramar Ship Index: Asuka, ID#8913162.
  38. ^ Asklander, Micke. "M/S Crystal Harmony (1990)" (in Swedish). Fakta om Fartyg. Retrieved 7 July 2009. ; Miramar Ship Index: Crystal Harmony, ID#8806204.
  39. ^ 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 NYK: fleet list
  40. ^ NYK-Nippon Oil Joint Project: The World First Solar-Powered Ship Sails
  41. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Asama Maru, ID#5026499.
  42. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Astoria Maru, ID#5027572.
  43. ^ ShipPhotos, NYK: ship at Southhampton, 2006; Miramar Ship Index: Galaxy Leader, ID#9237307.
  44. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Hakone Maru, ID#6817194.
  45. ^ Miramar Ship Index: Hikawa Maru, ID#7380590.


External links

Further reading

  • Richard Cook and Marcus Oleniuk (April 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

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