The ”MSC Galaxy” ReCommon’s new report on the shipping giant

ReCommon today releases the report “La Galassia MSC”. The study examines the group’s complex corporate structure, with branches in some of Europe’s least transparent jurisdictions, and the dominant role of the company in the shipping sector. Shipping is one of the winning sectors in terms of profits made in the period marked by the global pandemic. Inn the coming years, it is likely to have even more extreme effects not only on social justice, but also in terms of global sustainability and impacts on the climate crisis.

La galassia MSC
La galassia MSC
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The shipping part of the Aponte family’s giant now owns 574 ships, with revenues estimated at $25.19 billion. An empire with its heart in Switzerland, where is registered the family’s holding company, Mediterranean Shipping Company Holding SA. This one controls two companies, MSC Croisières S.A., also registered in Switzerland, and SAS Shipping Agencies (CY) LTD, registered in Cyprus. The latter in turn controls SAS Shipping Agencies Services Sarl, registered in Luxembourg. Four vehicles under the legislation of three countries – Switzerland, Luxembourg and Cyprus – with some of the most opaque jurisdictions in Europe.

To explore the MSC galaxy, we developed this tool to navigate through the constellation of companies controlled by the MSC holding in Switzerland. You’ll find the infromation about each company, and connections among them and key individuals. In collaboration with Graph Commons.

To visualize the map, click here

The economic power of MSC is of such magnitude that according to the ranking drawn up by Alphaliner, in March 2021 the company was second only to the Danish group Maersk, with a global market share of 16.7%. A share which has increased considerably in recent years and is increasingly close to that of Maersk itself (17.1%).

Since the start of the spread of Covid-19, Msc and Maersk have been able to make the most of both their de facto oligopoly position and their particular position as leaders of the routes linking Europe and China and the United States and China. Both companies could strengthen themselves also through the complex phenomenon of blank sailing. That is, the drastic reduction in the number of ships on these routes, resulting in a decrease in container places worldwide, which created a rapid rise in freight prices, with a peak in May 2020 of +682%, and settling on average increases of 400%. The phenomenon is slightly decreasing, however we can already define this as a concause of the high inflation that is falling on all of us, together with the increase of gas and oil prices accelerated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The report is casting doubt also on the overall environmental impact of the sector. The great transformation of entire fleets of cargo and tourist ships into “white ships” – “clean” because powered by fossil gas, or in the future powered by ammonia or hydrogen – is anything but sustainable. On the contrary, the transition to gas is being used to justify the construction of new LNG (liquid natural gas) deposits along the coasts of Italy and other Mediterranean countries.

Another negative note is on the extension of the supply chain, which reaches territories geographically distant from the ports, but conceptually part of the same production process of the global “just-in-time”. Thus, for example, the Genoa interport could extend up to Cortenuova freight station, in the Bergamo area, where a former steelworks complex has become the heart of a new logistics hub developed over the years. Medlog, part of the MSC group, is one its shareholders. MSC group is also concluding the purchase of the strategic interport of Rivalta Scrivia, owned by the Gavio group, which would allow to better manage traffic towards Piedmont region and therefore Western Europe and connect to the other interport of Bergamo to the east.

The port of Genoa, where MSC is particularly active, is increasingly caught in the grip of a local transport system that is collapsing, with urban and suburban traffic and trucks transporting the millions of TEUs that arrive every year by sea to its terminals. So the Port Authority and other institutions have worked hard to ensure that the new breakwater is perceived by the population as the real turning point for the future of the city. In fact, the breakwater should allow the arrival in Genoa of some of the largest cargo ships in the world. Ships 400 meters long and with a capacity of over 20 thousand TEU, which require deep sea bottom and terminals equipped with cranes of almost one hundred meters in height. Alike the famous Evergiven, which made people talk about itself for having blocked the Suez Canal for weeks,

All in the name of global trade which is “obliged” to grow, and which in Genoa converges in the hands of a giant company, MSC.

“From ships to terminals, from container transport to logistics, the shipping sector is among those that have seen the highest concentration in just a few years. Few private companies re-shape territories taking into account profit margins and not people’s rights, not to mention the environment and climate. What is happening in Genoa is the perfect synthesis of this dynamic, whereby the State is submitting itself to private interests, hiding behind public debates which are way different than an informed consultation of the people.

If a few large companies can redesign territories in the name of (their) profit, who is left to defends the interests of the community then?” is the comment of Elena Gerebizza and Filippo Taglieri, authors of the report.

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