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The history of the privately owned Deutsche Afrika-Linien/John T. Essberger Group dates back to the year 1924 when the former Imperial Navy Officer, Commander John Theodor Essberger (1886-1959), established himself as a tanker shipowner in Hamburg/Germany.
In the pioneer days of tanker shipping John T. Essberger soon became one of the primary names in the transport of liquid bulk. His success was built on break-through innovations in design and construction of tankers combined with a careful selection of top officers and crew, a policy that has been continued to the present day. In 1941 Essberger invested in the dry cargo market by taking over of the Deutsche Afrika-Linien (DAL), a liner company engaged in the Africa trade for decades.
After World War 2 the Essberger-fleet had vanished. But John T. Essberger soon managed to build up his company once again. In 1959, after his death, his daughter Liselotte von Rantzau-Essberger (1918-1993) took over the helm of the group. Under her careful guidance, buoyed by the West German Wirtschaftswunder, the business experienced strong growth in the service to Africa and tanker shipping.
In the 1980s the third generation comprising Dr. Eberhart von Rantzau and Heinrich von Rantzau adapted the company to new requirements, to a time when liner services allied with international partner shipping lines could be further strengthened and tanker shipping found an attractive market in the transport of chemicals.
On 1 June 2022 the container liner business of Deutsche Afrika-Linien was sold to Hapag-Lloyd who fully integrated DAL’s liner services into their business.
Today the company is the European market leader in chemical tankers and is managed by the third generation of
the Essberger/von Rantzau family. The company headquarters is on Palmaille 45-49 in
Hamburg-Altona overlooking the river Elbe. The ensemble of buildings, a classical
18th century palais accompanied by contemporary steel and glas architecture, reflects
both historical and modern views.
The company consists of John T. Essberger and ES-Tankers and employs a staff of about 1,100 – large enough to serve the ever growing demands of international tanker shipping in the new millenium, small enough to offer the personal touch.