A considerable increase in shipbuilding costs and heightened overseas competition highlighted the postwar period. Also during this time was the end of the British Empire-India recovered its independence in 1947, instigating a sudden fall in the number of regular passengers including civil servants, soldiers and their families. P&O dealt with the new circumstance by redirecting its engagements on cargo. As 1949 came along P&O’s cargo fleet had been reconstructed to its prewar capabilities, while the passenger fleet was at just 60 percent of its 1939 power. P&O also started its engagement with the tanker market later in the 1950s and by the mid 1960s the company was the major independent tanker operator in the UK.
Worldwide politics again got in the way in 1956 with the Suez Canal problem and the shutting down of the canal. The canal was essential to P&O’s UK / Australian and UK / Far East routes. More distant journeys and the uneasiness towards war, though, resulted in better returns and a temporary stimulus for the company. Notwithstanding the intimidation placed against passenger shipping from the proliferation of civil aviation, the passenger business was not ignored, and in the 1950s 2 novel, prominent passenger ships were arranged. In 1960 the company purchased what was left of Orient Line, and within a short time renamed its passenger operation P&O Orient Lines.
Hard times hit the shipping industry in the 1960s. P&O did not do too well from the all around shipping decline. During this time the company went into novel opportunities for business. In 1961 the closure of national service highlighted the conclusion of BI ships as troop carriers and the start of a scheme of educational cruises. In 1963 P&O, now chaired by Sir Donald Anderson, completed a long term contract with Anglo-Norness Shipping Company, a leading tanker and bulk shipping operator, to advertise its fleet of bulk and combination carriers. In 1965, P&O dived into the freezer trawler business via Ranger Fishing, which was purchased in 1974. Furthermore, P&O purchased and ran its first roll-on roll-off vessels via North Sea Ferries.
The most essential expansion of all, though, was the company’s groundbreaking engagement in containerization, one of the key modernizations in shipping in the 20th century. P&O was a leader in the containerization movement with the development of Overseas Containers Ltd., which was established in 1965 by 4 British shipping companies. In 1969 the first fully cellular container service of Overseas Containers Ltd. started between the UK and Australia. Experiencing considerable loss in the outset, the company slowly turned into a fortune, and in 1986 P&O purchased the remaining of OCL that was not already owned by it, switching the name to P&O Containers Ltd.