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MSC: A Family Saga at the Helm of the Global Maritime Industry

Posted: 3/15/2024

Author: Amelie de Moreau

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A Family Story

At the outset, there was Captain Gianluigi Aponte, who graduated from the Italian Maritime Academy and then turned to a career in banking.

In 1970, in Brussels, he founded the MSC - Mediterranean Shipping Company group with just one ship, the MV Patricia.

Over more than 50 years, the group, headquartered in Geneva, has become one of the world's leaders in the sector.

Gianluigi's wife, a co-founder of the company, is responsible for the decoration of the ships. They have two children, Diego and Alexa, both involved in the management of the company. Diego, as CEO, notably founded Terminal Investment Limited (TIL). Alexa serves as Chief Financial Officer. Additionally, their son-in-law and daughter-in-law also play an active role in the overall management of the group.

The group is entirely owned by private investors, so it is not publicly traded. This structure provides the management with greater autonomy in strategic decision-making, without having to meet requirements of shareholders focused only on the profit. The group's structure remains unique as the Captain decided never to go public. This structure offers many advantages, such as no requirement to publish results or pay dividends. The group has never paid dividends; it has always reinvested all profits received, which has enabled it to become the giant we know today. Moreover, decision-making is very rapid within the group because it does not have to wait for the approval of all shareholders when a strategic change needs to be made.

A Maritime Conglomerate

MSC Group has two division: the cargo division and the passenger division. The Cargo division has 3 different companies and the passenger division has 4 different companies.

The Cargo Division fo the MSC Groupe

It all started with the cargo division in 1970. The transportation of goods has evolved to now encompass three different subsidiaries. These three subsidiaries combined allow the group to offer customers a complete solution for handling goods from manufacturing warehouses to delivery to the final customer.

  • MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC): MSC is the world leader in maritime freight transportation, with 800 vessels and over 200,000 employees in 155 countries and 520 ports of call.

  • Terminal Investment Limited (TIL):TIL Group manages maritime container terminals in more than 30 countries, including 7 of the largest ports in the world (Antwerp, Singapore, Long Beach, Ningbo, Newark, Valencia, and Rotterdam).

  • Medlog Group: Medlog Group handles the land logistics of goods transported previously by ships. The company owns more than 5,900 trucks, 9,200 trailers, 4,600 wagons, and 88 locomotives. It also owns storage warehouses in ports or outside ports.

The Passenger Division fo the MSC Groupe

In the early 1990s, Captain Aponte decided to acquire the ship Achille Lauro from the Star Lauro company, which had just gone bankrupt. At that time, MSC cruises were reserved for a luxury clientele with high-end ships.

In the early 2000s, the company decided to take a 180-degree turn by focusing on a mass clientele instead. An investment of 5.5 billion euros and a few years later, the first ships of the Lirica class were launched.

The young company, then considered an outsider in the market (compared to its competitors such as Carnival and Costa), placed orders for several ships at the same time. It was unprecedented! No group had ever ordered so many ships at the same time! And that's the secret of the MSC group: the speed of decision-making because unlike large groups, MSC does not have to gather votes from its investors to make strategic decisions; these can be made on a Sunday afternoon with the family and implemented on Monday morning.

Currently, the group has allocated a budget of 13.6 billion euros for the construction of new ships by 2027. By 2027, the group will then own 27 ships with a capacity of 5 million passengers.

Most of the fleet's ships are built at the shipyard in Saint Nazaire, France, but competition from shipbuilders has also led the group to place orders with the Italian manufacturer, Fincantieri.

However, even though the group wants to build larger ships with many activities on board, it wants to continue offering interesting itineraries because it knows that the majority of its customers come on board to enjoy the ports of call.

The Passenger division includes 4 different subsidiaries: MSC Cruises, GNV, SNAV and the latest addition: Explora Journeys

MSC Cruises

There are currently 21 MSC Cruises ships sailing, and there will be 23 by 2025.

The group transports no less than 3 million passengers annually and has more than 185 nationalities on board.

Finally, MSC Cruises is the third largest cruise company in the world (after Carnival and Royal Caribbean) and the European leader.

The ships sail on most of the world's oceans, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, Northern Europe, North and South America, China, the Red Sea, and the Middle East.

It also offers 4-month world tours.

Explora Journeys

Created in 2020 and inspired by the personal travels of the Aponte family, the aim ofExplora Journeys is to offer exclusive itineraries on ships with a relaxed and unique atmosphere.

Explora Journeys aims for self-reconnection and connection with others. The company notably offers yoga and relaxation classes as well as lectures presented by biologists, geologists, or university professors.

The company aims to be creative and innovative, with high-end ships equipped with the latest technological advances but also environmentally friendly. The company currently has only one ship, Explora I, which made its inaugural cruise in August 2023, while Explora II will take to the seas in 2024.

Grand Navi Veloci- GNV

GNV is one of the main Italian shipping companies with 25 ships halfway between a ferry and a cruise ship. The main goal is to offer the services of a ferry company with the comfort and activities that a cruise ship can offer. The company operates between Italy and Sardinia, Sicily, Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, France, and Albania.

Società Navigazione Alta Velocità- SNAV

The last subsidiary of the passenger division, SNAV , is a company that offers ferry services operating on 3 major maritime routes:

  • Naples- Gulf Islands

  • Naples- Aeolian Islands

  • Ancona- Split (Croatia)

The fleet consists of 21 ships, including hydrofoils, catamarans and high-speed vessels. The goal is to transport passengers as quickly as possible with optimal comfort and safety.

Now that you know a bit more about the MSC company, are you curious to learn more about their ships? Feel free to read our article, which describes the atmosphere onboard, the common features of all ships, and also provides a description of all MSC ship classes!

Article Tags: Msc Cruises, History, Aponte Family,

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