In terms of capacity aboard container shipping vessels, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is the second largest shipping company in the world. MSC is a company based in Geneva, with its most important port for operations at Antwerp. The company ships and operates in ports all around the world and also owns a division that operates holiday cruises.
MSC’s founding dates back to 1970. Founded in Italy as a private maritime company, it remains private to this day. MSC began with shipping operations between the Mediterranean and East Africa, but has grown into a major world player in shipping and cruises. In spite of all this success, the company has experienced numerous accidents that cost money and put workers on board vessels at serious risk of injury and even death.
MSC is a privately-owned, global shipping company with operations that include nearly 500 offices, 150 countries, and more than 60,000 employees. The intake capacity of MSC’s fleet of 480 container ships totals 2.6 million TEU, or 2.6 million standard 20-foot shipping containers. The company ships goods around the world with more than 200 routes across the globe and 315 ports.
In addition to shipping cargo and containers, MSC includes warehousing and hauling services, covering everything from door-to-door. These services are covered by MSC Group’s Terminal Investment Limited. Another division, MSC Cruises, operates passenger holiday cruises, with a fleet of 12 cruise ships and destinations from South America to South Africa, the Caribbean, and many other locations.
MSC was founded by Gianluigi Aponte in 1970 with the purchase of his first ship in Naples, Italy. The first ship was the Patricia, which was followed by the Rafaela, and a shipping company was born. The early MSC line shipped goods between the Mediterranean and Somalia in East Africa. To grow the company, Aponte bought used ships and started offering services to Europe, the Indian Ocean, and other parts of Africa. By the end of the 1970s, the young company was already shipping to North America and Australia as well.
MSC purchased a small cruise line in 1984 and started up MSC Cruises. By 1994 the company had ordered and purchased its first new ships, the first being the MSC Alexa. In 2014 the son of the founder took over operations and became the president and CEO of the company. MSC remains a privately-owned and operated company to this day.
As one of the world’s largest shipping companies, MSC offers shipping to and from every major port on the globe with hundreds of routes and a large fleet of vessels. Among the specialized shipping services on offer are dry cargo, reefer cargo, cross trading, project cargo, and shipping for the agriculture, mining, automotive, chemical, food and beverage, retail, and plastics and rubber industries.
In addition to shipping and cruises, MSC’s services include supplements to shipping operations. These include delivering cargo past the port and to factories and other locations via rail, truck, and barge. MSC also includes warehouse services and storage, seamless customs clearance for international shipping, and a variety of cargo trailers.
MSC’s massive fleet is what makes it the second-largest container shipper in the world. It has a huge capacity, thanks to its fleet of 480 ships, including the largest of all container ships. With a total TEU capacity of 2.6 million, MSC’s largest ship, the Oscar, alone has a capacity of 19,224 TEU. The company also launched the Oliver, Zoe, and Maya, three more container ships with similarly large capacities in 2015.
Every area of the maritime industry is dangerous and risky. Large shipping companies like MSC take risks that put their ships, cargo, and workers in danger every day. These vessels must carry a huge amount of cargo and then navigate the world, from calm to rough waters and in calm and stormy weather. Only a handful of workers are responsible for operating each huge ship.
MSC and its ships have faced numerous accidents over the years. One of these occurred in 1994 when the Achille Lauro experienced an engine room explosion and resulting fires. This happened on November 30, and by December 2, it had sunk. In 2007, the Napoli had to be abandoned due to a major storm in the English Channel. The ship was lost. The Sabrina fared better when it ran aground in the St. Lawrence River in 2008. With cargo removed to lighten the ship, it could be towed away.
One of the most tragic accidents MSC faced was during the shipbreaking of its vessel the Jessica. Workers in India were dismantling, or shipbreaking, the vessel in 2009 when a fire broke out and killed six of them. Although MSC no longer owned the ship at the time, it has been blamed for not decontaminating the engine room before decommissioning it. This may have contributed to the fire as the workers dismantled the engine room.
MSC has also lost cargo and caused environmental damage through several accidents. These include the collision of the MSC Chitra in 2010 with another vessel in Indian waters. It led to nearly 300 containers falling into the water. In 2006 the company was fined for intentionally discharging bilge waste and sludge into the water from the Elena. A ship named the Rena, chartered at the time by MSC, ran into a reef in New Zealand, destroying valuable ecosystem in 2011.
Worker Rights and Maritime Laws
All of these accidents highlight just how unpredictable and dangerous the shipping industry can be. Workers aboard these large vessels face harm from collisions and running aground, bad weather and storms, falling containers, malfunctioning equipment, falls overboard, fires and explosions, and so many more potential incidents.
What these workers, for MSC and other similar companies have going for them is maritime law. Most workers aboard these vessels qualify as seamen, which means that they are protected by things like maintenance and cure. This is an ancient law that states vessel owners must provide for cost of living and medical expenses while a sailor is off duty from a workplace injury.
Seamen in the U.S. are also protected by the Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This law allows maritime workers aboard seafaring vessels to get compensation from employers in the event of an accident, as long as the employer can be found to be at least somewhat negligent. Workers who can prove their employers did not provide adequate training, did not maintain equipment, or did not consider bad weather, among other cases of negligence, can make a good case for compensation under this law. If you are an injured seaman, let a maritime lawyer speak to you about your rights and what to do next.