APL History

From a first American steamer voyage from New York to the US West Coast during the California Gold Rush of 1849, APL has continued its legacy of being at the forefront of the global shipping industry. This is our history and the foundation of what makes APL an industry leader in container shipping.

Over the course of these 160 years, the business that APL and its predecessors built has touched the lives of millions of people, involved virtually every country in the world, and shaped the future of ocean transportation. Though you’re reading about an illustrious past, ours is a story with a clear vision of the future.

Choose any moment, and you’ll see an organization that has consistently led the industry through innovation. Beginning with the entrepreneurial spirit of William Henry Aspinwall, the leadership of the company we know today as APL has held an unwavering commitment to progress. You’ll learn how that visionary approach has bridged geographic gaps and cultural differences in the Pacific, helping to build one of the largest trading areas in the world.

As you make your way through our journey, you’ll see as much of the future as you do the past. And in the many photos of the people who played a part in making APL what it is today, you’ll recognize hallmarks of a truly dynamic business – a legacy of foresight, an eagerness to explore, and a drive to innovate.

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View our Quicktime movie to experience APL’s history in motion. Trace the development of graceful 19th century steamers as they evolve into today’s huge, ultramodern containerships. Experience APL’s famous luxury-liner in all its style and splendor. Learn how cargo was hoisted aboard ships using slings and hooks - a practice that’s hundreds of years old - and how containerization has streamlined the way cargo is transported around the world today.