Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) was incorporated on 30 December 1968 as Singapore’s national shipping line. It operated out of a small office in the Fullerton Building with a fledging fleet of just five vessels.
By the 1970s, during an era marked by the move to containerised cargo, NOL’s fleet had grown to 21. It started earning its first profits in 1975 under then managing director Goh Chok Tong. NOL was the first company to offer a containerised service from Asia to Australia in 1975. In the same year, the company partnered three other major shipping lines – Franco-Belgian Services (FBS) comprising Compagnie Maritime des Chargeurs Reunis of France, Compagnie Maritime Belge and Ahlers Line of Belgium; Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (K. Lines) of Japan; and the C. Y. Tung Group’s Orient Overseas Container Line of Hong Kong and Taiwan – to form a consortium known as the ACE Group, which was targeted at the Europe-Asia trade. In 1978, it launched its trans-Pacific service and in the 1980s, intra-Asia feeder routes were added.
NOL became the first wholly owned government company to be publicly listed on the Stock Exchange of Singapore in April 1981. It moved into its current global headquarters, the NOL Building located at the junction of Pasir Panjang Road and Alexandra Road, in December 1983. By the early 1990s, the company had diversified into the lightering business with oil and petroleum product tankers.
In November 1997, NOL acquired one of America’s oldest shipping companies, American President Lines (APL), for US$825 million. This gave the company the critical mass needed to expand and compete globally – APL was nearly twice the size of NOL and had a 149-year history. The deal, then the largest in Singapore’s history, created one of the world’s top five global liner groups with revenues expected to reach US$4 billion. The acquisition also brought with it key terminal hubs in Asia and North America, along with a valuable inter-modal transport network in the United States that included ocean, rail and terminal operations.
The capability of the company’s supply chain management became an area of increasing focus, and APL Logistics was established as a separate business unit in 2001. In 2003, its product tankering business was divested, allowing NOL to concentrate on core liner and logistics services.
NOL has emerged as one of the world’s largest container shipping conglomerates, employing about 12,000 staff across 194 offices in 112 countries. To date, the group operates a fleet of 129 vessels and 212 warehousing facilities worldwide. Its core divisions, APL and APL Logistics, are world leaders in the global container transportation and logistics services.
1. Elias, R. (2004). Beyond boundaries: The first 35 years of the NOL story (pp. 8, 18). Singapore: Neptune Orient Lines. Call No.: RSING 338.7613875095957 ELI; A record hard to beat. (1969, August 24). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Neptune Orient Lines Limited. (2011). Investor Relations: FAQ. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from NOL website: http://www.nol.com.sg/wps/portal/nol/investorrelations/stockinformation/faq
2. Elias, 2004, pp. 11, 19.
3. Daniel, J. (1975, May 13). Two new ships for NOL. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Daniel, J. (1975, December 27). A good year for NOL despite shipping trade slump. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Elias, 2004, pp. 32, 35, 37.
5. Elias, 2004, p. 42.
6. NOL and three shipping lines form consortium. (1975, June 5). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Elias, 2004, pp. 8, 41.
7. Elias, 2004, pp. 8, 46.
8. Elias, 2004, p. 46.
9. NOL to go public – with 40 m share issue. (1981, April 4). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Elias, 2004, pp. 51.
10. Opening of NOL building marks event. (1983, December 30). The Straits Times, p. I. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Elias, 2004, p. 59.
11. Neptune Orient Lines Limited. (2011). History. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from NOL website: http://www.nol.com.sg/wps/portal/nol/aboutus/companyoverview/history
12. Chan, W. C. (1997, April 15). NOL in $1.2b deal to buy US group. The Straits Times, p. 1; NOL completes APL purchase. (1997, November 14). The Straits Times, p. 83; Lee, S. H. (1997, April 19). APL is integrated container shipper. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Elias, 2004, p. 83.
13. Elias, 2004, pp. 77, 78.
14 Sim, W. C. (1997, April 17). NOL: Offer price for US carrier not too high. The Straits Times, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Elias, 2004, p. 83.
15. Elias, 2004, p. 75.
16. Neptune Orient Lines Limited, 2011, History.
17. Neptune Orient Lines Limited, 2011, History.
18. Neptune Orient Lines Limited. (2013). Annual report 2012 (p. 1). Retrieved September 30, 2013, from NOL website: http://www.nol.com.sg/wps/wcm/connect/4b0099004f0a88baa398fb351ca5d7f1/NOL-Annual-Report-2012.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
19. Neptune Orient Lines Limited, 2011, Investor Relations: FAQ
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.