Container Shipping Still a Top Earner for Billionaires


Published Apr 9, 2023 10:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

With the pandemic era of super profits in container shipping expected to level off this year, the family of the shipping magnate Gianluigi Aponte has emerged as the top winner of the period. Gianluigi Aponte and his wife Rafaela are founders of world’s largest container line, MSC, and each own a 50 percent stake in the company. Besides the container line, the Aponte family also owns the cruise line MSC Cruises, inland cargo business Medlog and container terminal operator Terminal Investment Limited.

According to new wealth data released this week by Forbes, Gianluigi and Rafaela’s fortune almost tripled in the last year, rising from $8.4 billion each in 2022 to $31.2 billion each this year. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the couple’s wealth was estimated at $6.5 billion, revealing the massive surge in wealth during the last three years of the pandemic-driven boom in liner shipping.

Although MSC does not publicly publish its financial results, shipping expert John McCown estimates the company made more than $28 billion in profits in 2022.

Forbes jointly placed Gianluigi and Rafaela in the 43rd position in the 2023 world’s billionaires list. Separately, Rafaela Aponte was ranked the richest woman in the world, out of 96 self-made women billionaires surveyed by Forbes.

Last year, Swiss newspapers Le Matin and SonntagsZeitung named the Aponte family as the richest in Switzerland. They estimated the Apontes’ wealth at as much as $100 billion.

The Geneva based container line MSC has experienced phenomenal growth in the past few years, now controlling a fleet of 730 ships with capacity for over 4.8 million TEU. As a result, MSC surpassed Maersk’s fleet capacity last year, clinching the top position as the world’s largest ocean carrier.

Meanwhile, the German logistics billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuhne has also greatly benefited from the liner-shipping windfall. In the past 12 months, Forbes estimated Klaus’s net worth rose by $2 billion to reach $40 billion, making him 29th richest person in the world.

Kuhne is the honorary chairman of the global logistics company Kuehne+Nagel and has additional stake in Hapag Lloyd and Lufthansa.

After Kuehne+Nagel released its 2022 financial results last month, Kuhne was poised to earn $990 million from his 53 percent stake in the company. In March, Klaus also got another plum dividend payout of $3.5 billion from his 30 percent holding in Hapag Lloyd, which posted a record profit of $18.08 billion in 2022.