1837-1996 : The Parent Companies

The Parent Companies

The origins of P&O Nedlloyd can be traced back to 1837 when the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company gained the mail contract for between England, Portugal and Spain.    The next few years saw an expansion of services and by 1842 these included the carriage of passengers and other goods as well as mail to India.   Port calls at Singapore and Hong Kong were being regularly made by 1845, and the company name had been changed to Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O).


At the time that P&O was expanding it's services, the Dutch shipping company Koninkllijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot-Maatschappij (KNSM) was formed in 1856 by a group of entrepreneurial businessman .   During the same period, two other Dutch companies Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN) and Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd (KRL) were formed, these companies providing passenger and mail services between North Europe and Indonesia. SMN and KRL had, by the start of the 20th century, extended their services into the Far East.   By the same period KNSM had also extended their coverage into South America.   In 1908 the three companies had founded the Nederlandsche Scheepvaart Unie (NSU), a group designed to aid mutually benefical co-operation.  

By 1900 P&O had become the No.1 shipping company in the UK offering passenger and cargo services on routes to  ports in India, South East Asia, the Far East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.   A series of mergers and acquisitions saw it's fleet expand to almost 500 vessels by the 1920s.      Around that time, the NSU created a new company, the Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaart Maatschappij (VNS).    This shipping company offered extensive liner services between Europe and the Far East, with new trading links between Europe, Middle East and South East Asia.

The impact of the Second World War and the growth of world trade in the period that followed saw further consolidation in the shipping industry.     By the 1960s there was a recognition that containerisation offered significant advantages for the carriage of non-bulk goods by sea and four UK shipping companies, P&O, Blue Funnel, British & Commonwealth, and Furness Withy,  formed Overseas Containers Ltd (OCL). 

OCL developed the concept of door-to-door operations and launched the world's first panamax containerships. In 1970 various Dutch shipping companies followed a similar process by joining forces and setting up a 'new' Nederlandsche Scheepvaart Unie was formed.    In 1977 this was renamed the Royal Nedlloyd Group which had Nedlloyd Lines as it's ocean shipping arm.     By 1985 the P&O Group had gained 100% control of OCL which was then renamed P&O Containers.  

From the 1970s onwards OCL (then P&O Containers) and Nedlloyd Lines converted their general cargo services to container operations and extended their networks to include the growing Atlantic and Pacific Trades.   Both companies also developed cross-trade services and moved into the field which we now know as logistics.

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