Having already invested in increased capacity for cargo, in the years following the opening of the Suez Canal, P&O took the next step and commissioned its first ‘purely cargo carrying type vessel’ in 1895. Launched a year later, the 6,482 ton Candia had the extra distinction of being the Company’s first steamer with twin screws. Although designed for the Australia run (via the Cape) Candia operated first to China and Japan.
Unfettered by mail contracts, the Company’s cargo vessels were free to follow trade wherever it could be found. And in the late 1890s the Far East trade was faring better than India (then in the grip of famine) and Australia in the midst of a prolonged drought.
Candia was joined by Socotra in 1897 and P&O’s cargo fleet was established.