Skærmbillede 2020-10-29 140142

Our History

Moving for all to grow since 1866

C.F. Tietgen’s initiative to merge four Danish steamship companies to DFDS (Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab) in 1866 had a strong purpose: The new company enabled trade that was growing exponentially in the wake of the industrialisation, creating growth for all. Products and coal from the UK, the world’s industrial locomotive at that time, were transported to the textile and energy demanding markets in Scandinavia and other countries. And in these countries, the steam ships conversely gave farmers access to the UK’s rapidly growing market for food and raw materials.

DFDS developed quickly with the growth it helped create. Around 1900, DFDS steam ships connected farmers around the Black Sea with the new Russian industrial area around St. Petersburg. DFDS started routes to USA bringing back soya cake as feed to European farmers thus supporting their transformation from exporters of livestock to producers and exporters of processed products like butter and bacon. DFDS also connected Danish and Scandinavian cities with each other and with the world. All this was based on a fleet of more than 120 ships, among the largest in the world at the time.

DFDS transported immigrants who sought a better future in the USA. During the world wars, DFDS kept up supplies of critical food and coal to people in Europe who otherwise would have been starving and unable to heat their homes. Jobs and industry were kept alive. After the war, DFDS’ ships, many now powered by diesel engines, kept moving – products from USA to Europe, people between countries, goods between UK and mainland Europe, between the Mediterranean and Scandinavia and to and from Iceland. At the end of the sixties, DFDS were the first to develop a ro-ro service, paving the way for more efficient shipping of trucks and trailers carrying industrial cargo.

The logistics activities were developed from 1972 with the same purpose. Connecting people and businesses from door-to-door to make everyone grow. When DFDS acquired Dan Transport in 1998, the business area became one of the largest forwarding and logistics companies in Northern Europe. DFDS Dan Transport was sold in 2000 to focus the company’s resources on shipping. After the acquisition of Norfolkline in 2010 and several logistics acquisitions, DFDS has again transformed itself to become a unique European Shipping and Logistics Group providing vital infrastructure services in Europe.

Today, DFDS has set a firm course towards development of digital capabilities to continue fulfilling the purpose the company was born with: We move for all to Grow.


Carl Frederik Tietgen

DFDS' founding father, the Danish financier Carl Frederik Tietgen, was born in Odense in 1829. After completing school he was apprenticed to a merchant, before becoming one of the most important figures in the history of Danish shipping.

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The DFDS Fleet

Find all DFDS ships from 1991 to 2016.

DFDS Pearl ferry at sea

A History of Mergers and Acquisitions

DFDS is always trying to improve our customer’s experience, and this can sometimes mean joining forces with another company in order to enter a new region or a new market.

See the history of DFDS’ recent mergers and acquisitions, and learn more about our expanding Freight and Logistics networks.

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DFDS purpose and strategy

DFDS strives for continuous improvement of our customer services and operational efficiency, development of our digital capabilities, and leveraging the strength of our European platform through acquisition.

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How DFDS is structured

DFDS' business structure comprises of two divisions and two corporate service functions.