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From 1945 to 1961


In this issue, we spotlight "K" Line's history from 1945 to 1961. At that time, "K" Line took its first steps away from the destruction of World War II and down the road to genuine recovery. 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. It was also a time of dynamic change worldwide, including the outbreak of the Korean War and the Suez Crisis. In the midst of these upheavals, "K" Line achieved dramatic growth by staying abreast of the rapidly-changing business environment and adapting to industry and customer needs.


The damaged and stranded"KIYOKAWA MARU"



History chart

1945 August World War II ends. The Company's fleet comprises 12 ships with a total capacity of 31,111 tons.
1946 November The "K" Line employees' union is established.
December Senior Managing Director Koichi Kimijima is appointed President.
1947 January The "K" Line employees' union is established.
1948 December Company commences efforts to rebuild commercial fleet. The New York service liner "KIYOKAWA MARU," sunk during the war, is successfully salvaged.
1950 January The Company's shares are listed publicly.
April The "KIYOKAWA MARU" departs from Kobe for Bangkok (first overseas ship following return to private operation).
August The "KIYOKAWA MARU" departs from Kobe for North America (first ship on that route in postwar era).
November Senior Managing Director Motozo Hattori is appointed President.
1951 March Japan/Bangkok service is inaugurated (the "YUKIKAWA MARU").
Japan/Bangkok route opening initiates efforts to reestablish and develop major liner services.
1952 September Japan-Seattle route is inaugurated.
North America-South Africa route is inaugurated.
New York service resumed (the "KIMIKAWA MARU").
1953 March Oil shipping business resumed through charters.
May The "RYUJIN MARU" becomes first ship assigned to China in the postwar era (also first Japanese ship to pick up salt cargo in China).
June Entered into a contract relating to the use of the "ANDREW DILLON." Independent oil transport service is established.
September Latin America west coast route service resumed (the "KAZUKAWA MARU").
1954 April The "YUKIKAWA MARU" becomes the first Company ship operating on the Australia route.
October Japan/Western Africa route via Panama Canal is inaugurated (the "HIDAKA MARU").
1955 March World War II ends. The Company's fleet comprises 12 ships with a total capacity of 31,111 tons.
1956 July Kawasaki (London) Ltd. is established in London as the local subsidiary.
August Japan/North America Pacific Coast/Caribbean Sea/Gulf route is inaugurated (the "KAZUKAWA MARU").
1957 July Capitalization increased to ¥8 billion.
The "FUJIKAWA MARU" is completed as the Company's first oil carrier in the postwar era, commencing efforts to build up the oil tanker fleet.
November North America Pacific Coast/Caribbean Sea route is inaugurated.
1958 July Bangkok/Persian Gulf route is inaugurated.
August Far East/New York direct route is inaugurated.
The "NEVADA MARU" sets a new record for shortest Pacific passage (9 days, 15 hours, 10 minutes).
1959 December The "MONTANA MARU" sets a new record for shortest Yokohama/New York route passage (20 days, 11 hours, 44 minutes).
Far East/Caribbean route is inaugurated.
1960 April Japan/Alaska route is inaugurated.
December Iron ore carrier the "FUKUKAWA MARU" (first generation) is completed, commencing efforts to build up a specialized carrier fleet.
1961 March Far East/New York direct route/extended route to Eastern Canada is inaugurated.
November Japan/California route is inaugurated.

"K" Line's Postwar Revival

How "K" Line revived from almost completed destruction after World War II At the end of World War II, the fleet of "K" Line was reduced to 12 vessels by 1945. Furthermore, run-away post-war inflation also took a heavy toll on the Company. Despite this adverse turn of events, "K" Line succeeded in reviving its business through a series of successful measures. In 1948, "K" Line salvaged the "KIYOKAWA MARU" ship that was sunk during the war. This vessel became "K" Line's first privatized ocean-going liner, and contributed to the Company's revival through the following remarkable activities.

  • 1949.NOV. Transport of iron ore from The Philippines.
  • 1950.APR. Transport of rice from Thailand.
  • 1950.AUG. Accompanying authorization of North American service by Japanese ships, becomes the first Japanese ship to transport wheat from Seattle.
    Both commercially and symbolically, the "KIYOKAWA MARU" eventually emerged as a critical part of "K" Line operations during the stringent postwar years, and served as the first major foundation for the Company's renewed development.

The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950

thrust Japan into a prominent role as an overseas liner service provider. As one phase of Japan's export promotion policy aimed at re-achieving independence of the national economy, priority was placed on the revival of liner services. As a result, the scale of The Japan route network had recovered to pre-war levels by 1954. "K" Line also accorded liner service the top priority in its shipping business, and assigned half of its vessels to liner services, with the remaining half used for non-liner services. This decision was aimed at well-balanced business operations.

The expanding fleet of "K" Line is illustrated on the accompanying chart. This progress was considerable, and focused on overseas routes.

In 1956, as a result of Egypt's declaration

(to the U.K. and France) of its decision to nationalize the Suez Canal, service on that route was halted, causing shipping freight rates to soar. The shipping industry responded with energetic growth efforts. In addition to demand for space due to suspended service via the Suez- Canal, there were the other economic factors which motivated the shipping businesses to grow-energy revolution and advances in industrial production requesting them to keep pace with the emergence of large-volume transportation and expansion of trade areas and specialization of ships. As a result, the entire shipping industry enjoyed an economic boom all over the world.

However, the so-called Suez Boom did not last a long time. In the after-math of the boom the shipping industry was burdened with oversupply of ship space which led to a stagnation and recession of the shipping business. This in turn prompted practical moves toward rationalized shipping, merger and consolidation, and other measures intended to deal with the situation.


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