Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) South Africa

Founded in 1970, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has since transformed itself from a small conventional ship operator into one of the world’s largest and best known maritime transportation groups. By providing an unparalleled service network through its various offices around the globe, and through the expansion of its fleet, MSC has successfully consolidated its position as the second largest carrier in terms of container slot capacity and the number of container vessels operated.

It was the founding of MSC’s Europe-South Africa service in the 1970s that resulted in the establishment of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) South Africa. In adopting the group’s unique, innovative and flexible approach to shipping MSC South Africa has grown to become one the biggest users of South Africa’s ports.

The large fleet of container vessels that the company today boasts has allowed it to expand to deliver services along a number of major trade routes which link South Africa directly with Europe, the United States, Asia, the Middle East, Far East and Australia. Closer to home links are also provided between South Africa and numerous key ports along Africa’s West and East Coasts, Madagascar and several Indian Ocean Islands.

The success of the business, particularly during the course of the last decade, can in large part be attributed to MSC’s Quality Management System. This system aims to achieve continuous improvement throughout the group, especially when it comes to service levels the company delivers to the shipping community. Perhaps equally important however is also the company’s willingness and ability to initiate change in order to the meet the constantly evolving needs of its clients.


MSC South Africa operates a successful reefer cargo division, tasked with shipping temperature controlled commodities such as fruit, fish and meat to a number of destinations. In addition to its reefer equipment that comes in both twenty and forty foot capacities, the company also offers controlled atmosphere and specialised protocol shipments.

The goal of the reefer division is to maintain the cold chain throughout the voyage so as to preserve the commodity being carried. By keeping transit times to a minimum the division is also able to extend the life of the product in question. Today MSC South Africa’s main reefer markets include the UK, the United States and Canada, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, while business continues to grow at a healthy pace in East and West Africa, and in the Far East.

As the business has grown, MSC has made sure to invest in the acquisition of a number of characteristic office buildings, each of which has become something of a landmark in their respective locations of Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.

Particular attention however has been paid to the restoration of the company’s Port Elizabeth offices, housed in a building that has long held the distinction of being recognised as a national monument. The restored building was officially opened in 2004 and today is recognised for the elaborate stained glass window that adorns its entrance. Depicting the changing times of the shipping industry over the centuries, it is rather aptly titled the Millennium Window.

In moving with the times the company has also enshrined an ability to diversify into other areas of business. Such diversifications include the creation of a Container Depot Company and an Intermodal/Landside Logistics Company. Together these companies help provide the type of one-stop service that MSC South Africa has become known for.

Individual depots can be found in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Rosslyn and Port Elizabeth. The Rosslyn depot boasts its own rail siding and provides particular benefits to clients in the motor industry as it provides easier access to their manufacturing plants. Meanwhile, the Uitenhage depot in Port Elizabeth is situated within the Nelson Mandela Bay Logistics Park and is also strategically situated in close proximity to a large global motor manufacturer. The most recent addition to the company’s depot portfolio can be found within the Industrial Development Zone in East London, Eastern Cape.

MSC Logistics, the intermodal arm of the company, has a longstanding contractual relationship with Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), the service provider of South Africa’s rail corridors. The strong relationship between the pair allows MSC to offer TFR competitive rates of business, good transit times between ports and inland rail terminals, and up to date tracking through its electronic connections to its clients’ computer systems.

MSC Logistics controls more than 700 trailers, more than 300 trucks and a large fleet of Owner Drivers, truck owners commissioned as sub-contractors. Together these assets cover a large road transportation service of full deliveries, empty returns and the repositioning of empties for export demand. Such resources also allow it to offer local cartage within 300 kilometres of the major ports and inland rail terminals in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Another venture that has witnessed a great deal of success in recent years is MSC South Africa’s technical division, which was expanded in 1998 to include a world class, full scale engine repair and maintenance facility, headed up by a team of experienced and highly skilled South African and Italian engineers. This division of MSC South Africa, much like the company itself, has gone from strength to strength since the emergence of a democratic South Africa and shows no signs of slowing down.

Written by Will Daynes, research by Peter Rowlston