Once upon a time: The story of ZIM
The story of ZIM spans over half a century. From its beginnings as a carrier of immigrants from war-torn Europe to the ports of the land that would become the State of Israel, ZIM has grown to become one of the world’s leading, largest shipping companies, operating worldwide.
The beginning: A company with purpose
ZIM was established in 1945 by the Jewish Agency, Histadrut Labor Federation and the Israel Maritime League. The Kedmah, ZIM’s first ship, was purchased in 1947. The company’s early fleet included ships that were refitted to carry immigrants from Europe and much needed supplies during Israel’s founding, War of Independence and difficult early years in the late 1940s.
Expansion & growth: 1953-1968
In 1953, ZIM embarked on an era of global expansion that lasted 15 years, with the acquisition of 36 passenger, cargo, bulk-carrier and container ships, and the launch of a range of passenger and cargo services. Always responsive to the dynamics of the global transport market, ZIM discontinued its passenger services in the late 1960s, as air travel became more popular and accessible. Now, ZIM dedicated its energy and resources to international cargo shipping.
Israel Corporation: An era of bold progress
In 1969, approximately 50% of ZIM was acquired by the Israel Corporation. This move away from government ownership ignited an era focused on international expansion and specialized cargo shipping. At ZIM’s 25th anniversary in 1970, the company owned 77 ships, 70 chartered ships, and operated 19 major cargo lines, carrying 4.3 million tons of cargo annually.
Next, ZIM made the bold move into container shipping. ZIM was a pioneer in this area, one of the first carriers in the world to adopt the technology that was new at the time, yet destined to dominate the shipping industry in the decades to come. To this end, the company acquired six specialized container ships, in addition to containers and shore equipment.
In 1972, ZIM introduced the innovative ZCS. The “ZIM Container Service” was a three-continent line, with a scheduled 100-day journey that originated in Israel and included ports of call in the Far East, Asia, America and Europe. During this period, ZIM also deployed tankers to carry crude oil from Iran to Israel, and finished goods from Israel to Europe.
In the late 1980s, ZIM embarked on a massive project of fleet renovation and expansion. From 1990 to 1997, ZIM built 15 modern ships, enabling the company to offer a weekly fixed-day sailing schedule, positioning ZIM among the world’s top-ranking shipping companies.
In response to a global shipping crisis in 1997, a result of the financial crisis in Asia, ZIM launched a new effort to optimize the company’s operations through increased efficiency and focused expansion. The company added 13 new 5,000 TEU container ships to its fleet, increasing ZIM’s cargo capacity by a remarkable 50% within two years.
Privatization, precision & efficiency: 1999 to the present
In 1999, the Ofer Brothers Group became the controlling shareholder of the Israel Corporation. In 2004, the Israel Corporation acquired the remaining ZIM shares held by the government, completing the process of privatization of ZIM and heralding a new era of efficient, streamlined operations.
These included the integration of 13 state-of-the-art high-TEU ships into ZIM’s fleet, additional new ships added to the fleet during the years 2006 to 2008, cutting-edge computerized information systems to improve tracking, communications and back-office efficiency, as well as a new emphasis placed on value-added ancillary services to maximize customer satisfaction and to increase the company’s control of the supply chain.
The meaning of ZIM: The story behind the name
The name “ZIM” was proposed by Israel’s first Minister of Transportation, David Remez. The name is based on a passage in the Bible (Numbers 24:24), in which the Hebrew word ZIM refers to “large vessels”. The name reflects the goals of the company, even in its earliest days – to build a large merchant fleet.
ZIM: A symbol of strength
The design of the company flag is based on the pennant originally
created by Theodore Herzl in 1896 as the future national emblem of the State of Israel. Herzl’s banner featured seven golden stars on a white background. Upon the establishment of the State, ZIM added two horizontal blue stripes, which were a part of the design of the official flag of Israel. The funnels of ZIM’s ships are painted in these colors, making ZIM instantly recognizable at sea.