DP World has re-acquired P&O Ferries for $322m ($421m), 10 years after it sold the operator to Dubai World.

In 2006 port operator DP World acquired the UK-based P&O group and sold some divisions, including P&O Ferries, during the height of the financial crisis.

Now, the decision to buy back P&O Ferries came as a shock to some in the shipping industry.

“It certainly came as a surprise, but I suppose there are as many potential upsides as there are risks in this deal,” one source told The Loadstar. “This is very much DP World pushing into other sectors as the terminal sector is proving to be saturated.”

P&O Ferries operates a fleet of 21 ro-ro vessels in the shortsea, North Sea and Irish Sea sectors, across 11 ports, while its logistics division, P&O Ferrymasters, is active in 19 European destinations.

Chief executive of DP World Ahmed Bin Sulayem said he was “pleased” to be re-acquiring the company and expected it to provide a return in its first year of operation.

“P&O Ferries is a strong, recognisable brand and adds a best-in-class integrated logistics provider into our global portfolio,” he said. “Importantly, P&O Ferries provides efficient European freight connectivity, building on last year’s acquisition of Unifeeder.

“This transaction is in line with our strategy to grow in complementary sectors, strengthen our product offering and play a wider role in the global supply chain as a trade enabler.”

Last year, DP World bought Unifeeder for $760m. It announced late last month it would be launching a new service between London Gateway and Gdynia, with the inaugural sailing set to depart on Friday on a weekly schedule, departing the Polish port on Friday evenings and arriving at London Gateway on Mondays.

The carrier said the new service was being launched as shippers and freight service providers faced considerable supply chain uncertainty over the Brexit process.

It added: “This new connection is part of our strategy to provide customers a competitive transport alternative and ensure a steady flow for their cargo to the UK, via multiple points of entry.”

While no mention of Brexit was made in DP World’s announcement of the P&O Ferries deal, the source believed it would have played a part in the decision, and added: “Especially as they’ve got ferries.”

The transaction is subject to customary completion conditions and is expected to close in the first half of this year.

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