World’s biggest shipping line anchors ‘heart’ and R2 billion in South Africa

World’s biggest shipping line anchors ‘heart’ and R2 billion in South Africa

Shipping Operations At The Port Of Durban

Mediterranean Shipping Company chose Durban as the location for its first designed, built and owned cold storage facility, globally. Photos: Brenton Geach/Getty Images

Global shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) opened its first cold storage facility in the world in Durban on Thursday. It described the R350 million development as part of its “love story” with South Africa and a testimony to its confidence in investing in the country.

Geneva-headquartered MSC, the largest shipping line in the world, has a more-than 50-year history in the country, stretching back to when its first vessel called at the Port of Durban in 1971. Current MSC South Africa chairperson, Captain Salvatore Sarno, who went on to open the company’s local head office in the city, was a crew member that day.

MSC South Africa commercial director, his son, Rosario Sarno, told local and international business and government leaders, who attended the opening ceremony of the Medlog cold storage facility, that the investment, the latest in a string of MSC’s R2 billion worth of investments, including the Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal in the city since 2019, was a sign of the company’s “love” and commitment to the country.

“Tonight, we are not only inaugurating the first MSC cold storage facility in Durban and in South Africa, but we are inaugurating the first designed, built and owned MSC cold storage facility in the world,” Sarno said.

“As the Springboks have taught us: when we all work together as a team we can be the best in the world. MSC is the oldest shipping operator in South Africa. Our first vessel called in South Africa in 1971 and it was almost at the beginning of the MSC history, so it has been a very long story, or should I say, love story between MSC and South Africa. This cold storage facility is a testimony to the love MSC has for South Africa,” Sarno said.

“In the last 50 years we have done a lot to invest – in offices, depots, the Nelson Mandela passenger terminal – but it is not enough. This storage facility is a testimony that we will continue to invest in South Africa because we believe in this country,” Sarno said.

The state-of-the-art cold storage facility is located in Chesterville, not far from the N3 and N2 and less than 10km from the  Durban Port.  It can accommodate 10,000 pallets, and is geared to meet the growing demands of the cold logistics market, not least the country’s fresh produce exporters such as citrus growers, who need to preserve temperature-sensitive goods to guarantee quality on delivery.

Sarno said the company, also the largest local shipping agency in South Africa, is focused on job creation and has never retrenched anyone in its history.

“When our competitors are on a retrenching spree, we are employing people,” Sarno said. “This building is a testament that we will continue to employ people in South Africa and we will create thousands of jobs … This is a building with MSC soul, which is in the heart of all our employees, which makes us a smiling family which will always go out of its way to help. It doesn’t matter if it is Covid-19, civil unrest, or flooding, we are always there to help you …This building is a tool to strengthen our partnership with you, with the city of Durban and with South Africa.” 

Captain Sarno said he had spent most of his life in South Africa and calls it his home. He said he had been inspired by Nelson Mandela’s words to him that “it is not important how you live your life, what is really important is what have you done in your life to improve the lives of others.”

“I promised him that I would never forget his words and with this in mind MSC has created more than 100 000 jobs around the world – all related to our complex industry. In South Africa, from an original group of around 100 people we have today approximately 2000 employees in our offices throughout the country,” Sarno said.

The company owns about 800 container vessels that sail 300 routes, calling on 500 ports in 150 countries. It also owns five aircraft after expanding into air freight and cargo services in December 2022.

Sarno said the companies’ R2 billion in local investments since the Covid-19 pandemic included the passenger terminal, a mineral depot in Johannesburg, and the cold storage facility in Durban. In the pipeline are an additional cold storage facility at Coega and a new container depot in Cape Town.

He explained that MSC will trade under the name Medlog – a brand well known in Europe – for all its local logistics activity in the near future.

Sarno added that the company was pleased about the appointment of Transnet Group chief executive Michelle Phillips last week.

“We are sure that with Michelle at the helm, our ports and rail will improve dramatically, and all our farmers and growers will be able to export our fresh fruit throughout the world with no problem,” he said.

MSC chief executive Soren Toft said he had been inspired by the company’s growth when he joined it three years ago.

“I was inspired by the story of this company, a story of growth and passion and someone who was prepared to take tremendous risk,” Toft said. “Every employee of MSC is here to serve you giving the best service and the personal service …We try to be a humble servant in the global supply chain.”

“The rainbow nation has a very special link to MSC because it is where shipping started and we have invested more than R1 billion in infrastructure in new jobs, and training thousands of young people to get jobs. We want to help South Africa achieve its vision to become sustainable, economically prosperous, and self-reliant.”

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the provincial government was “very delighted” with the investment which had been made despite the difficult global economic climate.

“The fact that MSC has invested more than R350 million in the construction of this cold storage facility is a clear indication that you share our positive outlook for the future of KwaZulu-Natal. We applaud MSC for improving our supply chain machinery, for creating this state-of-the-art cold storage facility and creating many jobs,” Dube-Ncube said.

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