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Dip into decades of P&O's history from paddle steamers to passenger liners and ports. Experience over 175 years of life at sea and ashore with P&O.

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1830s ~ Peninsular Post

In the 1830s steam power was still in its infancy but for P&O’s founders it was the key to revolutionising commerce and communication by sea.

No longer reliant on fickle winds, steam ships had the power to reduce passage times, operate ‘regular’ services and speed up the whole business of trade and transport. ‘Once the technology was established its development was unstoppable’.

The Irish led the way and, among them, two Dublin ship owners, Charles Wye Williams and Captain Richard Bourne, who were successfully running paddle steamers in the 1820s. It was a costly business but both men realised that the future of steam lay in operating larger ships on longer voyages and subsidised ‘mail’ services.

In 1834 Bourne chartered a steamer to the London ship brokers and agents, Willcox and Anderson, who were running speculative services to Spain and Portugal. Like Bourne, Brodie McGhie Willcox and Arthur Anderson had ambitious plans to operate regular steamers to rival the Government’s existing ‘mail packet’ service to the Peninsula. But, unlike Bourne, Willcox and Anderson had neither their own steamers nor any experience of mail contracts. Joining forces was an obvious solution.

Three years later, on 22nd August 1837, Bourne secured a Government contract for the Peninsular mails to be managed by Willcox and Anderson under the aptly named ‘Peninsular Steam Navigation Company’. Traditionally regarded as the Company’s foundation date, the first mail contract marks the start of our P&O story.

Did You Know?

Arthur Anderson’s quick thinking helped to save the mails and $21,000 in cash when Don Juan ran into fog just off Gibraltar on the homeward leg of her first voyage in September 1837. Anderson arranged help from HMS Medea to return the mails and Captain Engledue of Don Juan home to the UK and luckily no lives were lost.

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1840s ~ Oriental Expansion

Within three years the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company had set its course Eastwards and beyond the Mediterranean to the Orient.

A second Government contract for a mail service to Egypt was secured and, strengthened by a merger with Transatlantic Steam Navigation Company, the ‘Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’ was formally incorporated by Royal Charter in 1840.

P&O, as it could now rightly be called, embarked on a period of empire building in the East. Investment in larger ships, coaling stations and infrastructure enabled the Company first to cross Egypt and then to reach India in 1842 (via Aden) before continuing further East to Ceylon, Penang, Singapore and Hong Kong in 1845.

By the close of the decade the P&O fleet boasted 23 steamers with a further two under construction. Only five continued to ply the original Peninsular route. The remainder were bound for the Orient where they were engaged in mail contract or speculative services including: Southampton to Alexandria, Gibraltar to Genoa, Suez to Calcutta, Bombay to China and Hong Kong to Canton.

P&O had pursued a strategy of first obtaining mail contracts and then further marking their territory with branch or feeder services intended to ward off competitors and, in the case of the Bombay to China run, to benefit from the lucrative trade in opium.

Did You Know?

The first P&O ship with two funnels, and fitted with bathrooms, was Great Liverpool. She was renamed ‘Great’ to avoid confusion with the earlier, smaller Liverpool.

 

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1850s ~ New Worlds

Spurred on by the Australian gold rush, and the guaranteed income of a mail contract, P&O sent its first steamer to the New World in 1852.

Arriving in Sydney on 4th August 1852, Chusan met with a rapturous welcome. She was the first mail steamer to arrive from England and the voyage had taken just 84 days via the Cape.

But scarcely had the joys of the new faster mail service been felt before P&O was forced to suspend the route on account of the war in Crimea. The Company’s best and latest ships were required, including Himalaya, then the largest steamship in the world. The Anglo-Persian war of 1856 created a further demand for troop transports, swiftly followed by the Indian Mutiny a year later.

Normal service was eventually resumed and the Company continued to win new mail contracts and expand its reach to the Philippines and Mauritius (on a new route to Australia). There were new ships too, now with screw propellers, which were more powerful and efficient than the paddle wheels they replaced. By the end of the decade 38 of the 55-strong fleet were screw steamers including Malabar, which endeared P&O to a thirsty nation of tea lovers, as the first Company to carry tea by steamer from China in 1859.

Did You Know?

Florence Nightingale travelled on board Vectis from Marseilles to Constantinople in October 1853 at the start of the Crimean War.

 

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1860s ~ Company in Crisis

Competition was a constant concern for P&O, but when it coincided with a drop in profits, and the threat of losing the mail contracts, the Company was thrown into crisis.

The French company, Messageries Imperiales, had taken over P&O’s service of French mails in 1864 and were now using the Egyptian railways to compete for the trade in specie and silk on the China line.

Panic peaked in 1867 when termination notices were issued on P&O’s existing mail contracts. The incoming Conservative Government signalled that ‘all the world’ would be invited to tender, including Messageries Imperiales.

Thrown into a fight for survival, the Board published a ‘Statement’ of the Company’s Position and Operations’ from 1840 to 1866, leaving the reader in little doubt of P&O’s contribution to the nation, for a quarter of a century. And as if on cue, the Company was again called upon to serve the Empire, transporting troops and supplying coal and water in the Abyssinian War of 1867.

As the last survivor of the original founders, it fell to Anderson, as Chairman, to lead the charge and keep the Company from collapse. Reprieve came in November 1867 when Parliament voted in favour of a new 12 year mail contract for all lines to India, China and Japan. Patriotism and P&O had prevailed. The Company was safe, for now...

Did You Know?

In 1861 Mooltan was the first ship to have ice-making facilities - a luxury not even dreamed of 20 years before. Ice was a necessity in the heat and by 1866 P&O was consuming 1,360 tons a year, at a cost of £7,000.

 

 

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1870s ~ Surviving Suez

The commercial impact of the Suez Canal was immediate and for P&O, tightly bound up by the constraints of its mail contracts, it was disastrous.

In an instant the Canal had removed the Company’s trump card. Access to the East, so long the preserve of the P&O few, was opened to all. Years of investment in infrastructure in Egypt, which no longer paid dividends, left P&O uncompetitive and ill-prepared for the future.

Freight rates plummeted and the Company’s fleet, built for a pre-Suez age, was suddenly ‘out of date’ - no longer fit for purpose. The mail contracts which had saved P&O at the end of the previous decade, now threatened to stifle the Company. The conservative Post Office, which had replaced the Admiralty in 1861, chose to ignore the Canal insisting that the mails were carried on the British-owned railway from Alexandria to Suez.

As competition grew and passage revenue fell, P&O was still bound by contract to carry the civil servants, soldiers and missionaries (which made up two-thirds of its passengers) at reduced rates.

The Company was in dire straits. Thomas Sutherland, first called upon by Arthur Anderson in the crisis of late 1860s, was appointed to serve alongside James Allan and Henry Bayley, in 1872, and to dig the Company out of De Lesseps famous ‘ditch’.

Did You Know?

The amazing acrobat, Chevalier Blondin, walked a tightrope suspended between the main and mizzen masts of P&O's Poonah in 1875.

 

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1880s ~ The First Fifty

Emerging from the difficulties of the preceding decade, P&O entered the 1880s on a more even keel and took pride in celebrating its Golden Jubilee.

The Canal had forced the Company to change tack. Mail contracts and monopolies could no longer be relied upon. Instead P&O had to be as efficient, expedient and as canny as its competitors.

Sutherland was appointed Chairman in 1882 and presided over a fervent building programme, begun ten years earlier, which focussed on speed, efficiency and greater capacity for freight and passengers. In the course of the decade, 29 new ships were launched beginning with Ravenna, the first Company vessel to be built of steel.

The largest and grandest of the new steamers, the 6,000 ton, four-strong, Jubilee Class - Victoria, Britannia, Arcadia and Oceana - aptly marked the occasion of the Company’s, and Queen Victoria’s, Golden Jubilee in 1887.

Such investment in new tonnage was courageous, particularly at a time when trading conditions, though improving, were still challenging. In 1883 a cholera epidemic, unrest in Egypt and bureaucracy on the Canal wreaked havoc with the mail schedules and Eastern trade.

In the same year the Company was joined on the route down under by a new competitor, the Orient Steam Navigation Company, operating under a mail contract from the Australian Government. P&O and ‘Orient’ would go on to dominate the UK/Australia run for the best part of the next 80 years.

Did You Know?

P&O's Peninsular was said to be haunted by footsteps 'that walked around the Captain and Chief Officer’s cabins' on the hurricane deck. The ship was even investigated by the Bombay Psychical Society.

 

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1890s ~ Bigger & Better

Firmly established as the ‘Empire’ line, with the solid hand of Sutherland at the helm, P&O continued to invest in ever bigger and better ships.

By the end of the decade the P&O fleet amounted to just over 300,000 tons. The cost of the new steamers, built in the 1880s and 1890s alone, was £8,500,000 - the equivalent today of £9.2 billion.

Working on the principle that a ship’s useful life was about 20 years, older ships were sold off to make way for new. The majority of the new steamers were passenger liners, designed specifically for the mails and increasing in size with every year. But there were a few exceptions such as P&O’s first real cargo ship and a pair of relatively small (2,000 tons), express steamers, Osiris and Iris. These two vessels ran between Brindisi and Port Said on a weekly express mail service, operated by P&O under contract from the Italian Government in 1898.

Being both fast and capacious, mail steamers were equally well-suited to the job of trooping. In 1894 the Government chartered Britannia and the newly-lengthened Rome to carry troops to India in the six-month ‘trooping season’. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement which continued with the Ashanti Expedition and, of necessity, extended to the use of four steamers when the Boer War began in 1899.

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P&O's first onboard telephone was fitted on Parramatta in 1892. The new telephone connected the bar to the smoking room.

 

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1900s ~ Edwardian Era

The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 brought to an end the longest reign in British history and a new, altogether briefer, Edwardian era began.

The Boer War, begun in 1899, was still being waged and in its final year, 150,000 troops were carried on eight P&O ships, then on His Majesty’s service.

When peace returned, the Company met the demand for new tonnage with a new class of powerful steamer, the ‘M’ class, which broke the 10,000 ton mark. The passage time to India was reduced to just two weeks, half the time taken by the ships of the 1870s.

The new mail ships left from Tilbury where P&O established a base in 1903. Only cargo and intermediate steamers continued the Company’s traditional presence in the London docks. Between the two, the Thames Nautical Training College at Greenhithe and HMS Worcester welcomed its first P&O Cadets in 1907, under a new scheme initiated by the Company’s Chairman.

P&O entered the business of ‘pleasure cruises’ for the first time in 1904. The concept was not new. The Orient Line had been successfully ‘cruising’ since 1889 and the North of Scotland Orkney & Shetland Shipping Company (forerunner of P&O Scottish Ferries) for even longer. But in a decade which saw P&O ships laid up ‘for want of trade’, the time for the Company to go cruising had arrived.

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The P&O cargo ship Candia took one of the first aeroplanes to Australia. It was a 'Bleriot' monoplane and it arrived in Melbourne in December 1909.

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1910s ~ War & More

King George V acceded to the throne in 1910 and so began a decade that would be dominated by war with Germany. Within weeks of the declaration, over half of P&O’s fleet had been requisitioned.

As the war intensified more ships were commandeered, leaving the Company with a third of its might to carry on the lifeline services of cargo, mail and passengers. There were significant losses, but despite the war P&O would emerge both larger and stronger than ever before.

In 1915 Sir Thomas Sutherland stood down, having served the Company as its Chairman for longer than any before or after him. He left having negotiated, in the months before war broke out, a historic merger with the British India Steam Navigation Company (BI). Sutherland had found in BI both his successor, Lord Inchcape, then BI’s Chairman, and a company almost as big as P&O, to complement its operations.

For the remainder of the decade, Inchcape presided over a steady stream of acquisitions transforming P&O from a shipping line to an empire by the time peace returned in 1919.

Did You Know?

Kaisar-I-Hind broke the Plymouth to Bombay record on her maiden voyage to Australia, reaching Bombay in 17 days, 20 hours and 52 minutes!

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1920s - World's Largest

For P&O, like so much of Britain postwar recovery was painfully slow. Trading conditions were hampered by a lack of exports, strikes and a new high in the cost of materials and labour.

For the shipping industry there was the added issue of ‘excess profit duty’ and the nagging threat of nationalisation as governments, at home and abroad, found their hands full of ships.

In Inchcape, P&O found a loud and powerful voice ready to doggedly defend the Company’s future and the principles of free trade in a difficult decade.

There was the immediate problem of replacement tonnage and half built steamers left on the stocks, abandoned by war. P&O acquired six cargo steamers, from the Government’s booty of enemy confiscations, and two more branch steamers were added to the three still on order from 1918. At greatly inflated, postwar prices, new mail steamers were commissioned for Australia and India.

Ever the optimist, Inchcape seized opportunities for growth whenever and wherever they presented themselves. A new booking office was opened in Cockspur Street in London’s West End and new premises added to the Company’s original City office in Leadenhall Street. In 1920 the General Steam Navigation Company was acquired, followed by Strick Line in 1923.

By 1924, P&O was the largest shipping company in the world…

Did You Know?

T.E. Lawrence, better known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, returned from India to England on board P&O’s Rajputana in January 1929. He travelled incognito under his adopted name, Thomas Edward Shaw, which he used from 1923. Lawrence spent two years with the RAF in a remote posting in India before he was forced to return to England after it was rumoured that he was involved in espionage.

 

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1930s - A Century Old

P&O began the thirties, like most companies, in the grip of an unprecedented worldwide depression, precipitated by the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

By 1932, 15 million tons of shipping, a fifth of the world’s entire sea carrying capacity, lay idle for want of trade. At its lowest ebb, P&O reluctantly enforced pay cuts and suspended dividends to shareholders for four long years.

The dramatic downturn in cargo volumes and passenger numbers was compounded by political and civil unrest in India and China and the ‘menace of state-aided competition’, which brought about the demise of P&O’s Branch Line to Australia.

A new ‘tourist class’ was created to appeal to a generation of cash-conscious passengers, and also a growing number of cruisers, which coincided with the introduction of a new class of ‘white’ liners built for the Australian mail service.

Strathnaver, the first of the ‘Strath’ class, was launched in 1931 and took her name from the hereditary title adopted by Inchcape, when he was knighted in 1911. The Straths were to be Inchcape’s last legacy. He died in 1932 leaving his son-in-law, Alexander Shaw, later Lord Craigmyle, to succeed him as Chairman of P&O.

By 1937 Britain had a new monarch, King George VI, and the celebrations coincided with the Company’s own moment in history. P&O had been in business for a century. But, before long a new gloom descended. On 3rd September 1939, the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, made his now historic broadcast to the nation.

Britain was at war with Germany, again.

Did You Know?

Mahatma Gandhi departed Bombay for Marseilles on board Rajputana on 29th August 1931. From Marseilles he continued his journey on the overland express arriving in London for the 'Round Table Conference'.

 

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1940s ~ A Fleet at War

The war had an immediate and devastating effect on P&O and its operations. Within months of the declaration, the Company’s entire passenger fleet had been requisitioned.

The earliest casualty was Rawalpindi which sank on 23rd November 1939 after a brave but futile fight against two German battle cruisers. In the icy waters of the North Atlantic, there were precious few survivors. The war at sea had truly begun.

Sir William Currie, who had succeeded Lord Craigmyle in 1938, found himself at the helm of a Company at war and, as Director of the Liner Division at the Ministry of Transport, steering a wider merchant fleet through treacherous waters.

As a whole the merchant navy suffered heavily. Nearly 3,000 ships and 30,000 lives were lost - twice the number killed in the First World War.

By the time peace was declared, the P&O fleet had been reduced to half of its original might and the remaining ships required extensive reconditioning. The first services to Australia and China resumed in 1947, but it wasn’t until the end of the decade that the Company was back to anything approaching ‘business as usual’.

At the same time there was the added complication of a new order emerging in the Empire of old. In 1947 India gained independence and the British Empire, which had sustained both Company and country for so long, began to falter…

Did You Know?

Himalaya was the first P&O liner that could turn sea water into drinking water. The ship was fitted with a ‘Weir evaporating plant’ for distilling water.

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1950s ~ Rebuilding, Rethinking

Rebuilding and replacing tonnage in the 1950s was more costly than ever before – P&O thought long and hard about just what to build.

The new postwar fleet needed to consist of larger, faster and fewer ships. The Company concentrated its efforts on cargo and built six new liners, acquired seven more and commissioned P&O’s first fleet of tankers.

Diversifying into the tanker trade was a sign of changing times for P&O. There were new threats to the Company’s traditional trades. The Empire was disintegrating and competition came not just in the form of newly independent nations, but also from the growth in travel and mail by air. To cap it all, a year-long crisis in Suez closed the Canal with disastrous effects on shipping.

But there were opportunities too. Besides cargo, and a new venture into cold storage, P&O had re-entered the emigration trade carrying the ‘ten pound poms’ in their thousands to Australia. When cruising resumed in 1950, numbers of tourist class passengers soared to a new height. By 1955 there was a need for two new passenger liners. Together P&O and Orient announced the construction of Canberra and Oriana - superliners of a speed and scale not seen before on the Australian run.

In the wider group, BI celebrated their centenary in 1956 and acquired the business of their forefathers, Mackinnon Mackenzie, a year later. With 54,000 employees worldwide, and a network of shipping interests, P&O was well placed to meet the challenges of a changing commonwealth in a new Elizabethan era.

Did You Know?

There were 37 babies born on board Ranchi in 1950.

 

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1960s ~ Diversification

The Company’s strategy of diversification, which started in the 1950s with tankers, found a new urgency and importance in the sixties.

The driving force was P&O’s new Chairman, Sir Donald Anderson, who had the vision, pragmatism and energy to take the Company into the new realms of roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferries, freight forwarding, supply vessels, bulk carriers and, above all, containerisation.

New types of ships rolled off the stocks in the UK, Germany and Japan. These were operated and managed by consortia; Associated Bulk Carriers, North Sea Ferries, Normandy Ferries, Panocean and Overseas Containers Ltd (OCL).

In 1964 P&O Offshore Services was set up to supply the oil and gas rigs of the North Sea from a fleet of small vessels. Beyond the sea, the Company bought a road haulage company in Australia and Ferrymasters in the UK.

In 1960 P&O acquired the remaining share of the Orient Line and the latest liners, Oriana and Canberra, operated under the new name P&O-Orient Line. Emigrant numbers peaked at 80,000 in 1969, creating a bounty on the UK/Australia run which belied the general decline in liner voyages. The Company’s services from UK to New Zealand and the Far East closed in the same year.

Did You Know?

You could go to school at sea. In 1961 Dunera, a former troopship, became the first of the BI ships to pioneer educational cruising.

 

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1970s - Shake-up

For P&O the seventies started with a radical restructuring and a tumultuous time in the boardroom. Both would have far reaching consequences…

Over 100 subsidiary companies were reorganised into five main operating divisions with the intention of improving focus, costs and future prospects.

The restructure was instigated by Ford Geddes, Sir Donald Anderson’s second cousin and his successor, as P&O’s Chairman, in 1971. Geddes had another idea, which was to prove rather more divisive…

The property industry was booming and, backed by others on the board, Geddes proposed the acquisition of the property and construction company Bovis. The deal nearly came to pass but for one director, Lord Inchcape, who was vehemently opposed to it. Dissension reverberated far beyond the boardroom walls of Leadenhall Street. The details of the deal divided investors. But Inchcape stood firm by his assertion that Bovis was overvalued and that it stood to gain at the expense of P&O. As a counter offer, Inchcape launched a bid for P&O itself.

Equally opposed to the Bovis deal, Sir Donald Anderson, the former chairman, was moved to intervene and proffer a third way: P&O could continue as before but with Inchcape in charge. Individual shareholders approved and, by the close of ballot day on 20th November 1972, Geddes and half the board were out and Inchcape was in, occupying the role of Chairman that had been his grandfather’s over 50 years before.

The battle had lasted 100 days. It had been both bloody and public, but P&O was worth the fight. In a final twist of events, Inchcape presided over the acquisition of Bovis two years later, for a fifth of the original offer price...

 

Did You Know?

P&O owned and operated a mini-submersible ship, Aquarius 1 in 1974. The manned submarine was used for offshore oil and cable work.

 

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1980s - Testing Times

The 1980s was a decade of drama for the Company with moments of triumph and tragedy and a series of unexpected events.

Few could imagine that P&O ships would again go to war, but when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on 2nd April 1982, the Government strengthened its task force with merchant ships, ‘taken up from trade’.

With one war fought, and won, there was another conflict to settle much closer to home. On 2nd June 1983 the shipping and property conglomerate, Trafalgar House, launched a hostile bid for P&O. The chairman, Inchcape, then on the point of retiring, stayed to tackle the crisis. The bid was referred to the monopolies and mergers commission and by the time the go-ahead was given, P&O had a new, younger chairman in Jeffrey Sterling. The new guard had the backing of the shareholders and the City, prompting Trafalgar House, in the face of certain defeat, to withdraw their bid.

Sterling further bolstered P&O in a merger with his own property and service company, Sterling Guarantee Trust. Within a year P&O was a larger, more diversified group with capital in excess of £1000 million.

P&O went on to acquire full control of OCL in 1986 and the European Ferries Group in 1987. It was a triumphant start to P&O’s 150th anniversary year but within days of taking over European Ferries, one of their fleet, the Herald of Free Enterprise, capsized on departure from Zeebrugge, with the loss of 193 lives.

In the face of such an appalling tragedy, P&O drew strength from its past and determined to look forward.

Did You Know?

P&O extended its operations to every continent, including Antarctica, in 1988.

 

 

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1990s - New Nineties

P&O weathered the difficult first years of recession in the 1990s and emerged at the end of the decade a leaner, more focused organisation, reshaped by asset disposals, selective mergers and acquisitions.

In a difficult trading environment, property provided a firm capital base and a sizeable cash flow which was used to help rebuild and expand P&O’s shipping interests. The fortunes of both industries tended to be cyclical, but rarely in sync, thereby offering some balance in the bottom line.

Strategic joint ventures provided the necessary structure to protect P&O Ferries from the new threat of the channel tunnel and P&O Containers from falling rates and overcapacity.

In a shift of focus towards those areas of the Company affording the highest growth and returns, a string of assets were sold including; P&O Oilfields, P&O Tankships and the exhibition centres Earls Court & Olympia. In 1999 the much expanded Bovis Group, which had been part of P&O for 25 years, was sold following the successful flotation of Bovis Homes a year before.

A large capital investment in cruising facilitated the building of six new cruise ships in as many years. P&O Ferries opened a new route from Portsmouth to Bilbao and added several new ferries to their growing fleet and operations.

On the other side of the world, P&O Australia was quietly expanding its port operations and building a portfolio of international container terminals, which would rapidly become the jewel in the Company’s crown.

Did You Know?

P&O had to seek permission from Her Majesty The Queen to alter the Company's royal charter in July 1992.

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2000s - A New Milennia

The arrival of a new millennia brought with it many changes and, for the first time in P&O's history, a change in ownership.

With a new focus on ports, transport and logistics, the cruising side of the business was demerged in 2000. It was the first step in a decade of divestment that streamlined the organisation further still.

Several interests were sold; P&O Cold Logistics, P&O Trans European and P&O’s remaining share in container shipping line P&O Nedlloyd. Core businesses were revitalised. P&O Ferries introduced two new 60,000 ton cruise ferries Pride of Rotterdam and Pride of Hull and acquired Stena Line's share in the Dover/Calais service in 2002.

There was a sea change at the top with the departure first of Sir Bruce MacPhail as CEO and then Lord Sterling, who stepped down as Chairman in 2005 after 30 years. The duo, who had steered the Company's course for the best part of three decades, were succeeded by Robert Woods CBE and Sir John Parker respectively.

P&O’s future focus pointed to ports where capital raised was reinvested in marine terminals stretching from Buenos Aires to Vostochny and far beyond. It was this enviable geographical spread that attracted interest from DP World. P&O was the perfect fit and after a bidding war with PSA, P&O shareholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the DP World bid on 13th February 2006.

A new era, in a new millennia, had begun.

Did You Know?

A team of 25 ecologists have re-housed over 50,000 animals from across the London Gateway site including water voles, Great Crested newts, adders, grass snakes and lizards. Find out more here

 

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Today & Tomorrow

In 2012, P&O celebrated 175 years since its foundation in 1837. It was a remarkable milestone and testament to the part P&O continues to play both on and off the sea.

Today P&O Ferries, P&O Ferrymasters, P&O Maritime, P&O Estates and P&O Cruises (now under separate ownership) together carry the famous name forward into the future.

The history of P&O is not without the peaks and troughs and crises that befall any commercial endeavour. Even the Company’s longest serving chairman, Sir Thomas Sutherland, pondered the unanswerable, in 1910, when he posed the question of how long the P&O story would continue:

'Well, gentlemen, long may this continue. How long?

Let us say for another seventy-five years – or at all events as much longer as possible.'

More than a 175 years later, we’re still counting…

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The cranes delivered to London Gateway in March 2013 were the biggest cranes ever seen in Britain and bigger than the London Eye. See how big they really are here.

 

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