We all have memories of our time with the company. and we are very grateful to those who have given PONLHeritage permission to share their recollections below.  

If you have any stories that you would like to share here then please send an email to

Captain Ken Owen

Captain Ken Owen had a long career at sea which included sailing as master with Overseas Containers Limited (OCL), P&O Containers and P&O Nedlloyd.   Ken is now retired and in 2020 he started writing a monthly article for publication under using the pen name 'Captain Ken' in the Mellor Church Outlook magazine.   A number of articles that Ken has written are about his time with the company and he has very kindly agreed that we can share them here (please click on the down arrow to the right for a list of articles or go to Captain Ken).

Captain Ken #1 - Liverpool Bay rescue - The story of how, in 1983,  the Liverpool Bay picked up 40 refugees off the coast of south east Asia.

Captain Ken #2 - Main Express (Strathconon) marine observation - The spotting of a massive shoal of Velella, more commonly known as 'Portugese Men-of War' or jelly fish.

Captain Ken #3 - Peninsular Bay rescue - Ken's account of the rescue of the crew of another ship in the China Sea in 1990.

Captain Ken #4 - Suez Canal blockage - The Ever Given incident in 2021 and then the Cardigan Bay in 1978.

Captain Ken #5 - Strathconon yacht race rescue - Yachtsman Eric Tabarly rescued in the North Atlantic.

Captain Ken #6 - Fire on board - The story of a series of fire incidents on a ship departing from Hamburg

Captain Ken #7 - The Ship's Cat - Ken's recollections on what was once an essential member of the ship's complement.

Captain Ken #8 - Buckingham Palace - The usefulness of a Merchnat Navy uniform when attending a Buckingham Palace Garden Party... 

Captain Ken #9 - The China Boats - Mao Tse-tung's Little Red Book presentation to ships' crews and recollections of ship visits in the late 1980s/early 90s. 

Captain Ken #10 - Container Fire - Fire in a shipping container stowed on deck.

Captain Ken #11 - China Memories; Shanghai and a rescue - Memories of port calls in Shanghai in the 1950s/60s, and a refugee rescue on the Peninsular Bay in the 90s.

Captain Ken #12 - Visits to the USA and Christmas - Restrictions in US ports and a Christmas shopping trip

Captain Ken #13 - Blue Funnel Tales - The naming of Blue Funnel vessels and tall tales...

Captain Ken #14 - Fire on board in Liverpool dock - Major ship fire on board the Pyrrhus in 1964

Captain Ken #15 - Signing up for a Life at Sea - The first steps towards a life at sea.

Captain Ken #16 - A day in a US Court - Appearing as a witness in a New York court following an incident on a ship.

Captain Ken #17 - Adventures in Borneo - Languages, sharks and a hostile encounter.

Captain Ken #18 - Lloyds List award - Ken Owen recieves Shipmaster of the Year award.

Captain Ken #19 - Communication at sea - The problems of communication in the days of signal flags.

Captain Ken #20 - Two very different surprises! - A visit to St James Palace and running out of water on a Blue Funnel voyage.

Captain Ken #21 - Measuring the Depths - Manual techniques to find the depth of water before echo sounders.

Captain Ken #22 - A Love of Music - Opportunities taken in port to see the music greats.

Captain Ken #23 - Suez and French Foreign Legionnaires - Ken's early days with Blue Funnel and a Suez Canal transit where he witnesses French Foreign Legion troops jumping overboard. 

Captain Ken #24 - Music Across the Oceans - Music played and heard around the world.

Captain Ken #25 - "What's It All About, Alfie?" - The Alfred Holt shipping company, Liverpool and its music scene in the 1960s.

Captain Ken #26 - Encounters with Nature - Wildlife encounters both on and off the ship

Captain Ken #28 - Narrow Boat Command - Skippering a canal barge and some comparisons between the QE2 and the Liverpool Bay. 

Captain Ken #29 - Weddings, Funerals and Services - The responsibilities of a ship's captains extend to the care of those on board as well as the ship!

Captain Ken #30 - Remembrance - The sacrifice made by the personnel in the Merchant Navy in the World Wars and one of the lessons learned

Captain Ken #31 - Interesting People - Ken Owen's encounter with Dr. James McIlroy who was on Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated expedition on the 'Endurance'.

Captain Ken #32 - Historic ship Shieldhall - The story of Ken Owen's involvement with the S.S. Shieldhall

Captain Ken #33 - Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion - Ken Owen organises the shipment of a circus to the Far East and a port call at Portbury, near Bristol, for the Osaka Bay. 

Captain Ken #34 - Stockport - An account of the loss of S.S. Stockport in the Second World War and the commemoration of those lost, followed by an accident on board a Glen Line vessel that saw Ken Owen receiving medical treatment and recuperation care in Stockport, the town. 

Captain Ken #35 - Perfect Storm - Ken Owen recalls two occasions when he encountered the force of an Atlantic storm.

Captain Ken #36 - Pirates and Hammerheads - Reflections on the current piracy and terrorism risks for shipping and then memories of a different threat to life and limb - Hammerhead sharks!

Life at sea

Tor Bay and HMS Southampton - In 1988 the P&O Containers vessel Tor Bay was in collision with the warship HMS Southampton near the entrance to the Arabian Sea.

Botany Bay and the Neman - An incident in 1974 when the OCL container ship Botany Bay was in collision with the Russian vessel Neman near the Canary Islands.

The Day in 1970 that King Charles visited an OCL Bay Boat - On 6 April 1970 King Charles (then the UK's Prince of Wales) visited the containership Discovery Bay in Melbourne, Australia.

"Fly a little, swim a little and boat a little" - The story of the rescue of an Australian pilot who was forced to ditch mid-Pacific when the engine failed on his Cessna 182.  The P&O Nedlloyd Los Angeles was in the right place at the right time to come to his aid.  

A radio officer's life in pictures - A brief introduction then a link to the external website set up by former radio officer (2OR) John McKay which contains a number of photos from his time at sea. 

Offices, ports and terminals

A Life in Shipping: Part 1 - Christian Kuepers account of his time with Hapag-Lloyd, his involvement with the early days for the Trio and then AECS, and his return to freight forwarding before joining the Cobra Tonnage Centre.    

Bob Olsen photos: Function - A set of photographs taken by Bob (and kindly made available to us by his son Neil) which appear to be from a function (perhaps a retirement or leaving party?) on the 8th floor of Beagle House, London in the late 1970s/80s.   We are hoping that someone looking at these may be able to help with names, etc.! 

Bob Olsen photos: Telex Department - Photographs of the Telex Department in Beagle House from 1988 (courtesy of Bob's son Neil) with an account and names provided by Stan Chalk, then manager of the team.

35th anniversary of a locomotive naming - 13/04/2023 is the 35th anniversary of the naming of a British railway locomotive 'P&O Containers', marking the millionth container movement through the (then named) Southampton Maritime Freightliner Depot in 1988.

Rotterdam terminal in the 1970s - Coal, grain, beetles and a port strike - John Selsig's recollections of working in the Rotterdam terminal during the early days of containerisation. 

Cargoes and containers

"This container saved our lives..." - The story of a couple with a farm in Texas who were protected from the effects of a tornado by an old P&O Nedlloyd shipping container.

Cabers to Australia - The story of a shipment of cabers for Highland Games competitions way back in 1971 .