The Mediterranean Shipping Line (MSL), owned by the family of one of Italys most discreet billionaires, Gianluigi Aponte, born in Sorrento in 1940, resident in Geneva, but with Italian passport, is reported to be planning to become the third largest force in the rapidly growing world cruise-liner market with the acquisition of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) from the Malaysian Lim family, whose main business is gaming. Over the last 36 years Aponte has built an empire of 300 ships, 23,000 employees (10,000 in Italy), an annual turnover of nearly $10 billion and which is second largest in the world in the container market. Some years ago the group started diversifying into cruise shipping with the creation of MSL Cruise, run by Apontes daughter, Alexa, and son-in-law, Pier Francesco Vago.

So booming is the cruise market and so few the shipyards with the capacity to build the gigantic boats now required that the waiting time for new boats is very great, which means that the MSL, which has so far grown organically, without mergers and takeovers, needs to take over another group if it wishes to grow fast. The Lim family wish to sell NCL as they are unable to run it at a profit. If the deal goes through, MSC would have 21 cruise liners and another 8 under construction, putting it behind Royal Caribbean and the leader, Carnival Corp, which has some 80 ships.