In 1822, Brodie Mc Ghie Wilcox, a London ship broker, and Arthur Anderson, a sailor from the Shetland Isles, went into partnership to operate a shipping line, primarily routes between England and Spain and Portugal. In 1835, Dublin shipowner Captain Richard Bourne joined the business, and the three men started a regular steamer service between London and Spain and Portugal, under the name Peninsular Steam Navigation Company.
The company became a limited liability company, incorporated by Royal Charter in 1840 as the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P. & O. S. N. C. Co.) soon to become known as simply P. & O.
Mail contracts were the basis of P. & O.’s prosperity until the Second World War, but the company also became a major commercial shipping and passenger liner operator.
In 1918 the company gained a controlling interest in the Orient Line, its partner in the England-Australia mail route. P. & O. and Orient Line were formally merged in 1960 to form P & O-Orient Lines.
In 2006 it was sold to DP World for £3.9 billion. DP World currently operate three P & O branded businesses; P & O Ferries, P & O Maritime and P & O Heritage. P & O Cruises is now owned and operated by Carnival Corporation & plc.