On 27 June 1901 79 shipowners gathered in the conference room of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce to embark on a completely new venture. They were there to set up the first association in Germany that aimed to provide selfhelp for a profession in the form of legal protection through insurance against the costs of legal proceedings. Precedents in similar form existed only in Great Britain, where »Protection and Indemnity Clubs« (P&I-Clubs) as legal liability insurers often offered members a »Freight, Demurrage and Defence Class« that amounted to legal protection. Innumerable German shipowners were foreign members of these and desired a similar organisation that would inter alia be German-speaking.
In 1901, the association’s first year, 79 shipping companies registered their need for precautionary protection in respect of 242 steamships and 127 sailing ships totalling 497,054 grt. In the first part-year 43 disputes arising from freight contracts needed to be investigated, resolved or fought. At 710,175 grt, tonnage insured by the association in 1906 reached a peak not attained again until 1924. With a fleet totalling 573,343 grt, shortly before the outbreak of war in 1914 the membership was almost as in 1901.
After the First World War and the Versailles peace treaty all that remained of the German merchant marine was 673,000 grt of small and very small craft. With 442 ships owned by 107 members, the association represented almost half of all surviving German tonnage in virtually all disputes.
Within the first 25 years (1926) the association
had opened files on over 6,000 disputed cases.
After years of difficulties for the economy by 1933 there were no more than 103 members. Under the Hitler regime the shipping industry encountered increasing supervision by party institutions. The »Reich Commissioner for Ocean Shipping« endeavoured to gain influence and appointments to the board of the association formally had to be sanctioned by the authorities. In 1936 membership of the association reached its lowest at just 314 ships. The association had quite enough to do even after the outbreak of the Second World War, for it was still interpreting freight contracts amid the confusions of war and championing shipowners’ rights against arbitrary orders from »German Navy command posts«.
In 1946 the military government gave permission for continuation of the association because it had been in existence prior to 1933. The fresh start, however, proved difficult. After mandatory handovers the amount of tonnage remaining to German shipowners - 442,138 grt - was one third less than in 1919. At the end of 1948 altogether 129 members with 124 ships (abt. 62,000 grt) were insured. The reconstruction of the German merchant fleet made only painstaking progress and foreign vessels on time charters had to help out. The Allies permitted construction of German coastal tonnage from April 1949, but it was not until 1951 that building of deepsea vessels was permitted without any restrictions.
A new category was therefore introduced, the »personal membership« for shipowners temporarily without tonnage of their own.
Furthermore a large number of small coastal vessels entered the association. They were also represented on the board.
25 important years of solid growth for the association followed. In 1964 the magic »400« mark was exceeded with 410 ships (and 580,063 grt) and in 1973 the association became a »tonnage millionaire«.
In the middle of the 1980s the number of disputes in the "time charter" category began to exceed voyage charter disputes - a consequence of the large number of containerships on time charter. From the beginning of 1988 a change in the rules allowed German ships managed abroad to be insured by the association.
By the end of the last century the association was underpinning the global activities of its members with correspondents in 139 ports from Abu Dhabi to Zeebrugge and specialised lawyers in 39 cities from Alexandria to Toronto.
The association passed the turn of the millennia with 987 ships, and the magic mark >>1000<< was reached only a few months later. On centenary day on 27 June 2001 the number of member ships had risen to 1,089, representing an increase of 506 vessels or nearly 50 % over the past 25 years.
To date (1 January 2016) the association has insured exactly 1,588 vessels with 36,758,706 gt.