The German shipping company North German Lloyd (NDL) was founded by the Bremen merchants Hermann Henrich Meier and Eduard Crüsemann on 20 February 1857, after the dissolution of the Ocean Steam Navigation Company, a joint German-American enterprise. The new shipping company had no association with the British maritime classification society Lloyd’s Register; in the mid-19th century, “Lloyd” was used as a term for a shipping company (an earlier user of the term in the same context was the Trieste-based Österreichischer Lloyd).
H. H. Meier became NDL’s first chairman of the supervisory board, and Crüsemann became the first director of the company (German Aktiengesellschaft – AG). Crüsemann was in charge of both cargo services and passenger transport, which, as a result of emigration, was growing significantly. The company was also active in other areas, including tugboats, bathing, insurance, and ship repair (the last of which it still provides). The first office of the shipping company was located at number 13 Martinistraße in Bremen.
The company started with a route to England prior to starting a transatlantic service. In 1857, the first ship, the Adler (Eagle), began regular passenger service between the Weser region (where Bremen is located) and England. On 28 October 1857, it made its maiden voyage from Nordenham to London.