The PONL Years

Both P&O Containers and Nedlloyd Lines had enjoyed organic growth through the 1980s and 1990s, but their parent companies recognised that more radical action was required if they were to be truly competitive in the global market.

In 1996 a meeting was held between Lord Sterling, the chairman of P&O Steam Navigation Company, and Leo Berndsen his equivalent at Royal Nedlloyd. At this meeting they discussed the potential for a merger of their two container shipping operations.

On 9 September 1996 P&O Containers and Royal Nedlloyd announced the intention to form P&O Nedlloyd, a 50/50 joint venture with headquarters operations split between London (Beagle House) and Rotterdam (the Willemswerf):

When the two companies merged in January 1997 the combined fleet had a capacity of 224,000 teu. At its peak, the line was offering 70 trade routes calling at 250 ports and serving 120 countries. It was the largest partner in the Grand Alliance (with OOCL, Hapag Lloyd and NYK).

In 1998 P&O Nedlloyd took over Blue Star's container business and in 2000 the USA-based Farrell Lines.

P&O Nedlloyd's first chairman was P&O S.N.Co main-board director Tim Harris. In May 2000 he resigned and was replaced by Philip Green. It is widely believed that Royal Nedlloyd made an attempt to buy out P&O in 2001. That attempt failed, but three years later both parent companies came up with a plan which saw the container line floated on the Euronext stock-exchange:

The date that Royal P&O Nedlloyd was first listed on the Euronext stock-exchange was 16 April 2004.

The P&O Nedlloyd fleet of container vessels went through significant changes after the merger. The ships that had started the dedicated container services in the late 1960s were phased out (OCL's first container ship the Encounter Bay was scrapped in China in 1999) and sales/lease back arrangements were made with ship management companies.

Vessels that were built for P&O Nedlloyd during this period were:

    • 1998 - P&O Nedlloyd Auckland / Genoa / Jakarta - 2890 TEU

    • 1998 - P&O Nedlloyd Kobe / Kowloon / Rotterdam / Southampton - 6690 TEU

    • 1999 - P&O Nedlloyd Sydney / Marseille - 2890 TEU

    • 1999 - P&O Nedlloyd Mercator / Tasman - 5468 TEU

    • 2000 - P&O Nedlloyd Barentsz / Drake / Hudson - 5468 TEU

P&O Nedlloyd had also invested heavily in developing new IT systems (FOCUS) and remodelling its business processes. A major back-office facility was created in Pune, India which had over 2,000 staff. The performance improvement programme that was put in place to improve customer service, quality and profitability was titled "Bridging the gap".

The vision for P&O Nedlloyd was "be the recognized global leader in the point to point full container load shipping market". The values that supported this vision were:

    • Trust – absolute confidence in each other to work in the best interests of the company.

    • Commitment – a passion to deliver on promises

    • Team – the desire and ability to work as one

    • Fun – to make work more rewarding

Revenue for the year ending 2004 was US$6.71 billion with operating profit of US$401 million.

Royal P&O Nedlloyd was accepted into the AEX Index (the 25 most actively traded securities for Dutch companies on Euronext Amsterdam) in March 2005.

P&O Nedlloyd's existence as an independent company then came to an end...