Hamburg Süd CEO Steps Down Saying Maersk Integration is Reaching Conclusion

Hamburg Sud containership
Brand transition ending Hamburg Süd identity is reaching conclusion (file photo)

Published Aug 31, 2023 11:15 AM by The Maritime Executive

In another sign of the end of another historic brand name in the shipping industry, today, August 31, is officially Poul Hestbaek’s final day as Chief Executive Officer of Hamburg Süd. After nearly 20 years with the company and the last two as CEO, Hestbaek’s departure follows other senior executives as Maersk transitions from its multi-brand strategy to a single, unified global brand under the Maersk identity.

“My responsibility for overseeing the successful completion of the Hamburg Süd brand integration into Maersk is reaching its conclusion,” Hestbaek wrote in a message on his LinkedIn account earlier this month. “As I prepare to embark on a new chapter, I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for the incredible journey I've had during the past two decades at Hamburg Süd.”

He was elevated to the CEO position in April 2021 with the departure of Dr. Arnt Vespermann who had been named CEO in 2017 after Maersk acquired the company. Vespermann, who had been charged with the integration of Hamburg Süd as a brand within A.P. Moller-Maersk, went on to become in January 2022 the Chief Executive Officer of Germany’s Offen Group, a vessel owner and management group.


Poul Hestbaek confirmed he would be leaving by the end of the month (Hamburg-Süd file photo)


Hestbaek said after the gradual integration and realizing significant synergies, his focus as CEO would be on securing and further strengthening customer relations for Hamburg Süd. He joined the company in 2004 after four years with CSAV, a Chilean-based shipping company. Hestbaek started at Hamburg Süd responsible for managing operations in the Eastern Mediterranean as an area manager and advanced in the company before becoming Chief Commercial Officer in November 2020.

Saying that the multi-brand strategy no longer reflected how the shipping industry and its customers functioned, Maersk in January 2023 announced its intention to transition the operation of Hamburg Süd, along with Sea-Land and its recently acquired logistics companies including Senator and LF Logistics, into a single identity. The phase-out for Hamburg Süd’s brand, which traced its origins back to 1871, began this spring. Founded by Hamburg and English merchants, the company was best known for its service from Hamburg to Buenos Aires and the Rio Plata region and continues to be a major carrier to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. By the late 1950s, they had launched a subsidiary, Columbus Line, and grew to routes to North and South America as well as Oceania.

Hamburg Süd ships began to receive new Maersk liveries and names and two months ago Philip Oetker who was Head of Hamburg Süd SAM Excellence and the last link to the founding family of the company announced he would be leaving Hamburg Süd and Maersk by the end of July. Reports in the German media are that the company recently gave up its headquarters in downtown Hamburg.

Maersk has not announced a date for the official end of the brand name, but in June advised customers that the transition was progressing. They said while the company would continue on its trade routes and contacts would remain the same, customers would begin to be serviced under the Maersk brand name although they would be individually advised when their business would be officially transitioned.