OCL Book

British Box Business - A History of OCL

(edited by Alan Bott, OBE)

"The advent of containerisation was, in fact, the most dramatic and profound change in the structure and operation of the international liner trades that has ever occurred... the experience of OCL is therefore an important part of a major episode in shipping history..." - Sir Frederic Harmer

This book chronicles the British Container Revolution, 1965-1985. It describes the genesis of the transformation from conventional to container shipping undertaken by the founders of Overseas Containers Limited - P&O, Ocean Transport & Trading, Furness Withy and British & Commonwealth.


With a forward by SCARA President Robert Woods and a Preface by Editor Alan Bott, the book contains fourteen chapters covering the birth of the container shipping company, the growth of each major trade, and the years that followed with P&O Containers and P&O Nedlloyd:

    1. Beginnings

    2. Planning the first service

    3. Sailing to Australia

    4. Conferences, Consortia and Crossing to Japan

    5. Building the Through-Transport-Business

    6. Far East Trade

    7. The Years Between: 1973-1978

    8. New Zealand TradeSouth Africa Trade

    9. OC(P)L and the Australia/New Zealand-Asia Trades

    10. Middle East, India and East Africa Trades

    11. Facing the Competition: 1979-1986

    12. Financial Matters

    13. After OCL : 1986-2005

The nine appendices provide background information on the founding companies, and then detail each major aspect of the operation:

i. The founding companies of OCL

ii. Planning the first service

iii. Calendar of Events in OCL : 1965-2005

iv. OCL and P&OCL Directors : 1965-1996

v. International Container Management (ICM)

vi. Combined Transport Documents, Insurance & Claims

vii. Computer Systems and Documentation

viii. Life at Sea in the Container Age

ix. Financial Matters


This high quality, hard-cover book is published by SCARA with 288 pages and many illustrations which embrace the personalities, the ships, the terminals & containerbases and the cargoes. Edited by Alan Bott the book is authored by many who played a direct role in the early years of containerisation.

The contributors include: Robert Woods, Alan Bott, Michael & Patricia Graham, Sir Adrian Swire, John Roberts, Michael Read, Stephen Rabson, Pat Tobin, Guy Cheeseman, John Newton, captains Michael Penney, Ken Owen & Michael Heron, Bob Straffen, Marion Ward, Pat Moore, John Richardson, and Anton Ratnayake.

Availability - Update Christmas 2018

This book was first released in 2009 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Encounter Bay the world's first purpose built container ship.

Copies were distributed and sold for £15 plus P&P directly by SCARA.

British Box Business - A History of OCL had a limited print run and unfortunately SCARA no longer hold any copies. You may though be able to find one from an online retailer via a web search (Amazon, eBay, etc.).

British Box Business - A History of OCL was published with support from the late Sir Adrian Swire and the Maersk Company

The editor, contributors and SCARA committee members at the book launch