The idea of establishing an alliance of port authorities in the ASEAN was hatched during a sports festival held in Sabah in 1974. After a series of meetings relating to the drawing up of a framework and mechanism for regional cooperation, the ASEAN Port Authorities Association, now ASEAN Ports Association, was born.

It was the brainchild of Messrs. R. Geotina of the Philippines and J. E. Habibie of Indonesia, both participants of the Sabah Sports Fest. These gentlemen are now fondly remembered as the founding officers of the APA and elected as the first Chairman and Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the Association in 1975.

The APAA was originally intended as an organization that could provide the proper forum for the achievement of the following broad objectives:-

* Exchange of information
* Harmonization of trade practices
* and Promotion/facilitation of the trade among ASEAN ports

The first annual meeting of the APAA was convened in Manila, Philipines in September 1975. This was attended by port representatives from the five ASEAN member countries, namely:

* Indonesia
* Malaysia
* Philipines
* Singapore
* Thailand

During the momentous meeting, the members officially approved the Terms of Reference of the Association and subscribed to its objectives, principles and purposes. The forming of the Association represents the collective will of the member-ports to foster friendship, extend support and cooperation to promote the interest of ports.

The founding members of APAA consist of government agencies in the ASEAN countries, which are recognized and functioning either as a corporate body or as a bureau. The Port of Singapore Authority, Indonesia Port Corporations, Kelang Port Authority (Malaysia), Port Authority of Thailand and Philippine Ports Authority function as corporate bodies. These ports operate like private business and, therefore, enjoy autonomy in the management, development, operation and financing of their ports. They are also clothed with certain regulatory powers over ports under their jurisdiction. The bureau-type ports, on the other hand, are administered by other government bodies where they are organically positioned, usually unter the umbrella of the Department/Ministry of Transportation and/or Communications.

During the 21st APAA Main Meeting in Singapore in November 1997, the Members formally adopted the changes the Constitution and By-Lwas of the APAA. Among the amended/additional provisions include: the modification in the name of the Association to Asean Ports Association (APA); inclusion of one more star in APA’s logo representing the formal membership of Vietnam ports into the Association; expension of the scope of activities and objectives of the Association to cover port planningg and development as a major concern of the APA as well as fostering of close relationship woth other regional / national / international port or port-related groups/ associations; expension of APA membership to include corporatized or privatized ports as associate members.