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Scandlines' history

Scandlines is the result of more than a century’s close co-operation across the German-Danish border. It all started with establishing the first rail ferry link between Warnemünde (Germany) and Gedser (Denmark) on 30 September 1903, and it is still growing stronger – a unique concept worldwide.

The Danish part of the company
Scandlines’ history goes back to 1872 when the Danish national rail company, DSB, established a ferry route between the island of Funen and Jutland.

In 1883, DSB established a rail ferry link on the Great Belt between the islands of Zealand and Funen, followed by a car ferry link in 1957.

M/V Dronning Ingrid plied on the Great Belt for many years

With the new bridge across the Great Belt, connecting eastern and western Denmark, the Danish government’s strategic interest in ferry operations disappeared and hence, as far back as 1995, the company was separated from DSB and established as an independent limited company (‘DSB Rederi A/S’). The Danish Ministry of Transport was sole shareholder. In 1997, the company was renamed into Scandlines Danmark A/S.

The German part of the company

The German rail company’s ferry history took its beginning in 1903 when the first rail ferry connection between Warnemünde (Germany) and Gedser (Denmark) was established.

M/V Prinsesse Alexandrine plied between Warnemünde and Gedser from 1903 to 1933 (image: Arkiv Dansk Færgehistorisk Selskab)

In 1909, the first rail ferry service between Sassnitz (Germany) and Trelleborg (Sweden) followed, known as the ‘King’s Line’.

When establishing the ‘beeline’ between Puttgarden on the island of Fehmarn (Germany) and Rødby on the island of Lolland (Denmark) in 1963, the co-operation between the two ferry companies in Germany and Denmark reached a completely new level.

M/V Kong Frederik opening the ‘beeline’ in 1963 (image: Scanpix)

The German part of Scandlines (Scandlines Deutschland GmbH) started in 1993 as the private company ‘DFO’, when the former eastern and western German rail companies – Deutsche Reichsbahn and Deutsche Bundesbahn – merged their ferry services.

The new shipping company, owned by Deutsche Bahn AG, continuously expanded its existing route network and intensified co-operation with its long-term Danish and Swedish partners, Scandlines Danmark A/S and Scandlines A/B.

The ‘beeline’ between Germany and Denmark has been improved several times since the beginning in 1963. For instance, in 1997, its operators invested approx. 250 MEUR in a complete modernization of the ferry berths and in four modern, identical double-ended RoRo ferries.

The merger
In 1998, the shipping companies DFO and Scandlines Danmark A/S – former partner companies – merged, creating the new company Scandlines AG. This merger enhanced and consolidated the century-long co-operation between the German and the Danish national rail services and their successor companies.

Two partners, working together despite two World Wars and a divided Germany: now united in one single company.

The former DFO merged with Scandlines Danmark A/S in 1993

During the following years, Scandlines consequently extended its international route network by establishing new ferry routes to the Baltics and to Finland.

Privatization and new ownership
After almost ten years, the two owners – German railway Deutsche Bahn and the Danish Ministry of Traffic – decided to sell their stakes. In 2007, a consortium consisting of the two investment funds 3i Group and Allianz Capital Partners GmbH (each taking 40 % of the shares) and Deutsche Seereederei, taking 20 %, became the new owners of one of Europe’s leading ferry companies: Scandlines GmbH.  

In 2010, Deutsche Seereederei sold its shares to 3i and Allianz, each of them now owning 50% of Scandlines Group. In December 2013, 3i acquired ACP’ shares, consequently becoming Scandlines’ sole owner.

As a part of a strategic re-orientation in 2012, Scandlines sold its freight routes between Germany and Sweden and the freight routes to the Baltics and Finland.

M/V Schleswig-Holstein on Puttgarden-Rødby

Sale of Helsingør-Helsingborg
Three years later, in 2015, Scandlines and Stena Lines decided to sell the route Elsinore-Helsingborg (Sweden), a ferry route that had been driven cooperatively by the two companies. As a result, Scandlines has since been focusing on its ‘traffic machines’ on Rostock-Gedser and Puttgarden-Rødby.

Scandlines core business is high frequent and reliable transportation service for freight customers and passengers.

Scandlines' green agenda
As a part of Scandlines’ green agenda ‘from hybrid to zero emission ferries‘, M/V Prinsesse Benedikte was converted to hybrid propulsion in 2013, followed by the three remaining passenger ferries on the route in 2014.

A hybrid ferry corresponds to a Toyota Prius at sea: a hybrid system, combining traditional diesel propulsion with electric propulsion, drives the ferries.
This results in a reduction of CO₂ emissions by up to 15%.
Read more about our green initiatives

At the same time, Scandlines’ ferries were equipped with a closed-loop scrubber, reducing the emission of sulphur and soot particles by at least 90%.
Read more about Scandlines' closed-loop scrubbers

The modern hybrid ferry M/V Prins Richard, connecting Germany and Denmark

In 2016, Scandlines put two new hybrid ferries in service on the route Rostock-Gedser: M/V Berlin and M/V Copenhagen.

Compared to our previous ferries, the new ferries ensure a reduction of the fuel consumption by 2/3 per trip per car, whilst doubling the capacity

M/V Berlin: Scandlines‘ modern shuttle between Rostock and Gedser (image: Siemens)

Read more about the hybrid ferries on Gedser-Rostock

Scandlines has a vision: zero emission ferry operation between Puttgarden and Rødby within a few years.
Read more about our zero emission project


In spring 2018, Scandlines was sold to a consortium consisting of First State Investments, Hermes Investment Management and 3i.