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From 1968 to 1974


Era of Rapid Economic Growth '68-'74
The Japanese economy continued to grow rapidly between 1968 and 1974. In 1971 the U.S. announced measures to shore up the dollar, shocking the entire world. Although these measures had considerable impact on Japan, the world economy quickly rebounded into an expansionary phase by the second half of the following year. The Japanese shipping industry emerged from the downturn with its competitiveness largely undiminished, enlarging the fleet of specialized carriers. In this issue containerization is being featured as the first of the series.



Shinagawa Wharf

Shinagawa Wharf

History chart

1968 May Kawasaki (Hong Kong) Ltd. is established in Hong Kong.
June The "FRANCE MARU" is the first "K" Line ship commissioned on the European route.
July Service between Southeast Asia and California/Gulf of Mexico is inaugurated.
November "GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE," "K" Line's first full-container ship, departs Shinagawa for Los Angeles.
"TOYOTA MARU NO. 1", a hybrid car/bulk carrier, is completed, marking the start of the buildup of the car-carrier fleet.
1969 August ESS container service commences.
October The container ship "AUSTRALIAN SEAROADER" is completed.
1970 January The ultra-high-speed cargo ship "ENGLAND MARU" is completed and placed into service on the European route.
Kawasaki (Australia) Pty., Ltd., is established in Sydney.
May The Tokyo Branch is relocated to the Iino Building.
President Hattori is appointed Chairman and replaced as President by Vice President Adachi.
July The car carrier "TOYOTA MARU No. 10" is completed.
December The heavy-cargo carrier "MACASSAR MARU" is completed and equipped with a 300-ton heavy derrick.
1971 March International Transportation Services, Inc. (ITS) is established in Long Beach, marking the start of "K" Line's overseas terminal operations.
June Capital is increased by 50% to 20,250,000,000.
August Container service between the Far East and the west coast of North America is inaugurated.
September Representaciones Mexicanas de Transportes S.A. (MEXTRANS) is established in Mexico City.
1972 January "K" Line-Kerr Corporation (KKC) is established in the U.S.
April Kawasaki Del Peru S.A. is established in Peru.
Representaciones Maritimas Kawasaki Chile Ltda. is established in Chile.
1973 July The container ship "VERRAZANO BRIDGE" is completed and placed into service on the Japan/North American East Coast route.
December The pure car carrier "EUROPEAN HIGHWAY" is completed.
1974 January "K" Line independently joins the European conference. "SCOTLAND MARU" is commissioned as the first "K" Line ship belonging to the European conference.
"K" Line, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and Nippon Yusen enter into a rationalization agreement regarding the Japan/Western Australia (WESTA) route.
February Kawasaki Singapore (Pte.) Ltd. is established in Singapore.
August Kawasaki (Bangkok) Co., Ltd., is renamed Kawasaki Thailand Ltd.
September The LPG carrier "SUN RIVER" is completed.


Containerization is said to be a once-in-a-century technological breakthrough that revolutionized shipping because it enabled distribution with the objective of door-to-door service through seamless transport of containerized cargo over land and sea. It was an epochal innovation that radically altered conventional notions of liner transport.

Container transport by container ships began in earnest in 1966 on Atlantic routes and subsequently showed signs of rapid expansion from intra-American routes to global ones. In Japan, recognition of container transport finally reached a critical mass around 1965. Container transport was understood to be a revolutionary approach that transcended the conventional concept of transport by sea only. It was also understood to require large-scale organization and massive investment and to be predicated on an indispensable relationship between land transport, port operations and marine transport. The government and concerned industries joined forces and proceeded to investigate the feasibility of implementing container transport.

Kawasaki Kisen's Progress

Promotion of Measures Concerning Containers and Ports

In March 1966 "K" Line established a Container Ship Committee to prepare for the impending arrival of container operations. Two months later, eight specialized research subcommittees were established under the Container Ship Committee. These subcommittees proceeded to study types of container ships, container vans and cranes, issues pertaining to shipping conference, container ship operations, issues pertaining to ports, land transport, cargo-related matters and computer systems.

In June 1968, "K" Line established the Terminal Affairs Division, consolidating internal port-related operations. At the same time, "K" Line studied rationalization and mechanization of cargo loading and unloading in the conventional liner sector and vigorously promoted cuts in cargo-handling and other port-related costs.

In August 1968, as a precursor to the commissioning of "K" Line's first container ship, the Container Division was established and an organization for promoting container operations was set up.

Containerization by Japanese shipping lines commenced in September 1968 on routes to California. The "GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE," the first containership of the Company, left Shinagawa Port for Los Angeles on November 2. (901 containers being loaded on both east-and west-bound voyages.) "K" Line's position with respect to containerization was as follows:

  1. "K" Line's fundamental concept of containerization was integrated land-sea transport. "K" Line considered the advent of the era of land-bridge or mini-land-bridge transport to be inevitable.
  2. For containerization, each shipping line should devise and implement an independent total system in accordance with its own judgment. There is a risk that an approach whereby everything is shared jointly or identical among shipping lines would defeat the purpose of containerization.

From such a standpoint, "K" Line independently commenced container service in 1971 on the Southeast Asia/North America route (PACFE). The decision "K" Line made at the time was clearly evident in the following distinctive characteristics of this route:

  1. The ships on the route were deployed solely by "K" Line;
  2. It was service to the West coast of North America that placed emphasis on the future potential of the Southeast Asian market. In addition, this approach was right on the mark from the standpoint of the subsequent growth in cargo volume between the Far East/Southeast Asia and North America.
Terminal Operations

Concurrent with the commencement of ESS in 1969, "K" Line opened its own terminals in Osaka and Yokohama. "K" Line's terminal operations subsequently expanded as major terminals successively opened in Long Beach in 1971 and Ohi in 1972. These were followed by a terminal in Kobe's Port Island in 1982, the Port of Tacoma (Husky Terminal) in 1983, the Port of Oakland (Transbay Container Terminal) in 1986, Kaohsiung in 1987 and Rokko Island (relocation of the Port Island terminal) also in 1987. Terminal operations have thus continued to develop by virtue of the terminal business's own capacity for growth, and to grow and adapt to changes in trade structure while meeting the needs of shipping line operations.

The fundamental concept of terminal design is supported by the foresight of a pioneer that has undertaken to adapt to containerization.

Multi-Modal Transport

Mini-land bridge is one form of multi-modal containerized transport that originated in 1972. It is a method whereby containers are transported from the West coast of North America to ports on the East coast and in the Gulf of Mexico by a transcontinental route via direct rail connection. While mini-land bridge was a port-to-port service, another integrated service known as interior-point intermodal was introduced by shipping lines from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. With interior-point intermodal, cargo is shipped from a west-coast port to a designated inland city that serves as an intermediate point. Since this service's inception, rail transport by shipping lines increased in importance, but railway operation had yet to be controlled by shipping lines.

The major characteristic of double-stack trains (DST), which made their advent in 1984, is not only the economy of double stacking. It is also that double stacking reduces shock and vibration and increases cargo safety in comparison to conventional rail transport. Even more revolutionary is that DST has enabled shipping lines to directly control inland transport service by allowing them to determine a train's route and schedule themselves and to have railways operate trains exclusively for them. This will lead to further augmentation of customer service and to an optimal culmination for independently deployed ships and fixed-day weekly service.

Promotion of Computerization

As integrated transport has advanced, shipping operations' clerical workload has increased. To cope with the trend, computerization has been carried out more in depth together with communication networks with aims such as improvements in efficiency of clerical work and quality of customer service on a global basis.

In the forthcoming edition we are going to describe other types of specialized carriers.


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