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The lifeboat on display in the Melbourne  Shrine of Remembrance in 2015


British, founded 1837

The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&OSNCo) was founded in UK in 1837 and sent its first steamer to Australia in 1852. Founded on lucrative mail contracts first to the Iberian Penisula and later to Egypt, India, Australia, China & Japan, P&O’s fleet dominated the routes east of Suez carrying mail, passengers and cargo. Following the acquisition of a number of shipping lines during First World War, P&O was, for a time, the largest shipping company in the world.

P&O first introduced ‘cruises’ to its passenger schedules in 1904 but it was not until 1932 that the Company made its first cruise from Australia (Sydney). Together with the Orient Line, P&O ships maintained lifeline mail and passenger services between UK and Australia using the shorter route via Suez. The longer emigrant route via the Cape was operated by P&O’s Branch Line service from 1911 to 1930.

When, after the war, the migration call came from Australia, it was P&O and Orient Line ships (then wholly owned by P&O) that carried many of the nearly one million arrivals from 1945 - 1972. With the advent of jumbo jets and long haul flights travel by sea became a thing of the past and liners turned to leisure to fill their berths.

Today P&OSNCo., is owned by DP World who acquired the Company, including P&O Ports, P&O Maritime and P&O Ferries, in 2006. P&O Maritime continue to operate the research and resupply vessel AURORA AUSTRALIS, supporting the Australian Antarctic Division’s vital work in Antarctica. P&O Cruises is now owned by US based Carnival Corporation and operates cruise ships in both Australia and UK.

Text provided by P&O Heritage Collection.