Together with Penang, Singapore was a major port of call for German ships since 1872 when the Kingsin Line started its bi-monthly steamer service to the Far East. In response to the demands of German merchant houses for a more regular and reliable steamship service, the North German Lloyd shipping line was contracted by the government in 1885 to operate the state-subsidised Imperial Mail Steamer Service. The German firm Behn, Meyer & Company, in particular, benefited from the arrival of German steamers in the region and by 1897, it had acquired the Hamburg-American Line (also known as Hapag). From 1900, Hapag and Lloyd were jointly operating the Imperial Mail Service, with ships departing alternately from the ports of Hamburg and Bremerhavan once every fortnight. However, the outbreak of the First World War put a temporary halt to German shipping activities in the region and allowed the emergence of the Singapore-based Straits Steamship Company.