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image  1 In January 2022, as containers piled up at the congested ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in Cali
April 10, 2023

In January 2022, as containers piled up at the congested ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in California—the two busiest in the U.S.—a momentous shift was taking place in the shipping industry. Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) had overtaken publicly traded Danish giant Maersk as the largest shipping line in the world by container capacity.From its headquarters in Geneva, MSC controls a fleet of 730 ships that can carry more than 4.8 million containers, according to shipping database Alphaliner. The company doesn’t publish financials, but shipping expert John McCown estimates that MSC brought in more than $28 billion in earnings in 2022, putting it ahead of Maersk. Unlike its Danish competitor, MSC is a private company, co-owned by husband-and-wife duo Gianluigi and Rafaela Aponte.Since 2019, the Apontes have reaped the rewards of a pandemic-driven boom which has added billions of dollars to the fortunes of shipping dynasties around the world. Their wealth is tied up almost entirely in MSC, which besides its container shipping operations also owns holiday cruise line MSC Cruises, inland cargo business Medlog and container terminal operator Terminal Investment Limited. Forbes now estimates that Gianluigi and Rafaela are each worth $31.2 billion, up from $8.4 billion apiece in 2022. That makes Rafaela, who cofounded MSC with Gianluigi in 1970, the world’s richest self-made woman thanks to her 50% stake in MSC. Ranked no. 43 in Forbes’ 2023 World’s Billionaires List, she also appears to be the highest-ranked female founder of all time. Read more about the #ForbesBillionaires lister at the link in the bio.
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