Rickmers-Linie’s roots date back to 1834 when Rickmer C Rickmers founded a shipyard in Bremerhaven which soon gained an excellent reputation. The yard also became engaged in ship owning and the Rickmers Shipping Company was established in 1859. Today’s Rickmers-Linie is a direct successor of that company. After being part of the Hapag-Lloyd concern from 1988 until 2000, the company returned into family ownership. Today, Rickmers-Linie is part of the Rickmers Group, one of Germany’s largest shipping groups.
With the delivery of nine so called Superflex Heavy Multipurpose Carriers (MPC) from Chinese yards between 2002 and 2004, the company started a massive investment programme that is continuing with the current new-building programme, which consists of 14 vessels. These will be delivered during 2010 and 2011 and will replace older chartered tonnage employed in other services such as Europe, the Middle East and India Rickmers-Linie has been carrying a wide variety of general cargo normally considered too large for ordinary ships for at least 100 years. The company’s archives include early 20th century photographs of Rickmers’ ships transporting tugs and other small vessels, steam railway locomotives and carriages, boilers and all manner of other engineering products from Europe to Asia, helping build the infrastructure and industry of these emerging countries, some of which were still under colonial rule.
The products of the Industrial Revolution that had swept Northern Europe and the US in the late 19th Century were exported worldwide by ships operated by pioneering companies likes Rickmers-Linie. With the onslaught of containerisation in the 1960s and 70s, general cargo vessels became unfashionable but there was always residual cargo that simply would not fit inside containers. Rickmers-Linie continued to provide a service for such cargo.
In recent years, there has been a marked revival in the fortunes of this sector, partly because container shipping lines were so full of containers they did not want to make special arrangements to carry so-called high and heavy cargo. Perhaps more significantly though, the size of individual pieces grew dramatically. With a large transformer or a pressure vessel for an oil refinery, it is not feasible to break down the unit into smaller components – the manufacturers want them shipped as complete units.