By Todd Karpovich
Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) and the Port of Baltimore have forged a partnership that has been highlighted by steady growth, milestones and a clear path for future success.
The relationship harkens back to the days when MSC first called on Dundalk Marine Terminal in 1985. The venerable shipping company later called on the South Locust Point Terminal, years prior to the development of Seagirt Marine Terminal in 1990.
Today, MSC and the Port maintain that close bond. The two sides work closely together to ensure success in the international maritime industry. In 2018 MSC moved over three million tons of cargo at Seagirt, ranging from imported furniture to beverages and auto parts.
James J. White, Executive Director of the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA), credits Gianluigi Aponte, Founder, Owner and Chairman of MSC, for being an innovative leader.
“Gianluigi Aponte is one of the true visionaries in our industry,” White said. “MSC has become one of the top container shipping companies in the world under his esteemed guidance. We have a long-standing and very productive relationship with MSC. They were the first container carrier at Seagirt and have seen remarkable growth here over the years. We look forward to many more years of a successful partnership.”
MSC takes goods from Baltimore to ports in Northern Europe, South Africa and South America.
Cargo from the Far East travels through the Panama Canal and is unloaded at MSC’s hub in Freeport, Bahamas. From there, the products are transferred to another vessel and shipped to Baltimore.
MSC has also enjoyed numerous milestones at the Port. “It’s extraordinary to see how MSC, the Port, the laborers, the trucking community and customers have been growing together throughout all these years,” remarked Mauro Dal Bo, Branch Manager of MSC Baltimore. “Constant dialogue and understanding the stakeholders’ needs have been the key of this successful story of the Port of Baltimore. We, at MSC, still believe that more is to come.”
In 2011, the MSC Sindy became the largest container ship to ever call on Seagirt. The Sindy is the size of almost four football fields and has the capacity for 9,200 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers. The Sindy’s arrival in Baltimore made national headlines at the time.
Since the arrival of the Sindy, new records have been shattered as the Port has invested heavily in its infrastructure to handle even bigger vessels. Still, MSC helped pave the way for these improvements because of its continued investment in Baltimore.
Seagirt, operated by Ports America Chesapeake, developed a 50-foot draft berth and neo-Panamax cranes to accommodate the ultra-large container vessels. To help with expansion, the Port also recently acquired the Point Breeze Business Center, which will provide more than 350 acres of land for the terminal’s expansion.
Further improvements are on the way to help MSC continue its successful partnership with the Port.
In December, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) received $6.6 million in U.S. Department of Transportation grant funding to contribute to a project that will deepen a second container berth to 50 feet at Seagirt. The state of Maryland will also contribute $7.8 million, and Ports America Chesapeake, which operates the Seagirt Marine Terminal for the MDOT MPA, will add $18.4 million, for a total project cost of $32.7 million.
The federal funding is from a program called Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD). Construction is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2019 and should take approximately one year to complete.
A second 50-foot-deep draft container berth will allow the Port of Baltimore to handle two supersized container ships simultaneously. Under a public-private partnership agreement signed with Ports America Chesapeake in 2010, a 50-foot-deep draft berth was constructed at the Seagirt Marine Terminal. The Port of Baltimore is one of only a few U.S. East Coast ports with the necessary 50-foot-deep channel to accommodate these massive container vessels.
The Port and MSC have also enjoyed the benefits of the expansion of the Panama Canal, which was completed in June 2016 at the cost of $5 billion. The updates include a new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the waterway. This created a third lane of traffic for more cargo, especially cargo from East Asia headed to the East Coast, providing more logistics and supply-chain options.
Gianluigi Aponte founded MSC in 1970. While the company always acknowledges its Italian heritage, MSC has been headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland since 1978.
Today, MSC operates in all major ports of the world. MSC has 480 offices across 155 countries worldwide and more than 24,000 employees. MSC’s shipping line sails on more than 200 trade routes, calling at more than 315 ports.
MSC operates vessels with some of the world’s largest capacity, including the MSC Gulsun, the largest containership in the world at 23,756 TEUs. The company remains independent and wholly owned by the Aponte family under the leadership of Diego Aponte, who was appointed President and CEO by his father and company founder, Gianluigi, in October 2014.