After World War II, CNCo began to pioneer ‘new’ trading routes from Australia to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands - a region that is now the focus for CNCo’s owned and managed trades.
1960s: Introduced a revolutionary new method of cargo carrying to these Pacific trades. “Unitisation” involved palletised cargo carried in specially adapted ships fitted with side ports and worked with forklift trucks carried on board, and was ideally suited to island ports where shore facilities were minimal.
1970s: In the late 1970s, CNCo repeated the trick by upgrading these services to full containerisation, using self-geared vessels fitted with mobile gantry cranes – an innovative approach at that time.
The 1960s and 70s also saw China Navigation diversifying its scope of activities in two other very different directions. In the 1960s, CNCo developed a passenger cruising business creating a niche market operating seminar cruises out of Japan and successfully dominated this market for almost 20 years. The early 1970s also saw CNCo beginning to invest seriously in the dry bulk carrier market – a move that marked the company’s first departure from a traditional owner/operator role to that of ship manager, with a succession of vessels, ranging from Handymax to Capesize, chartered into some of the world’s leading bulk pools.
1980s: The mid-1980s saw another new departure for CNCo, and the beginning of a highly successful, decade-long involvement in the VLCC market, with two owned and managed vessels traded on long-term charter to oil majors, helping the company to further diversify its expertise.
1990s: During the 1990s, CNCo’s liner trades expanded rapidly, but the focus of management activity moved away from its head office in Hong Kong. Asia Australia Express (AAE) merged with Australia Japan Container Line (AJCL), and thereafter Crusader Swire Container Service (CSCS) merged with New Zealand Unit Express (NZUE) coming under the aegis of a common P&O Swire Containers office in Sydney from 1991. Management of New Guinea Pacific Line (NGPL) moved from Hong Kong – via a three-year joint venture with Bank Line and Columbus Line in Singapore – to be consolidated with that of Chief Container Service (CCS) in the Swire Shipping Offices in Sydney in1993. With the initiation of a trans-Tasman service in 1999, Swire in Sydney became a natural focus for management of this trade too.
Meanwhile, CNCo’s interests in the New Zealand markets hinged on its shareholding in first, Tasman Asia and, later, Tasman Orient Line – both headquartered in Auckland.