The husband and wife team behind MSC Group are shipping’s richest billionaires.

Gianluigi Aponte and Rafaela Aponte-Diamant are worth $33.1bn each through their 50% holdings in the Swiss-based container and cruise ship giant.

They rank joint 48th in Forbes’ 2024 list of the top 200 billionaires worldwide, and their combined wealth would be enough to put them in 23rd place.

The owners of the world’s biggest container line saw their fortunes swell as box shipping rebounded after the pandemic.

And the magazine pointed out that Aponte-Diamant is the richest self-made woman in the world, well ahead of new entrant Taylor Swift.

The 79-year-old Swiss-Italian co-founded MSC with her husband in 1970. She is also the seventh-wealthiest woman on the list.

The couple met in 1969 on a Naples-to-Capri ferry that Aponte was captain of. Aponte, now 83, raised $280,000 to buy his first ship and set up MSC. The company’s second vessel was called Rafaela.

MSC Cruises is now the world’s third-biggest line and Aponte-Diamant is in charge of vessel decor, Forbes reported.

Richest get richer

But the couple has some way to go to top a list headed by French fashion and retail magnate Bernard Arnault and his family, who are worth $233bn.

Tesla and X owner Elon Musk is second on $195bn.

Next on the list in shipping terms is Russian tycoon Vladimir Lisin at No 70 with $26.6bn. Better known in mining and metals circles, he controls shipowners Volga Shipping and North-Western Shipping.

Eyal Ofer, who controls UK-based Zodiac Maritime among other companies, ranks 84th on $24bn.

His brother, Idan Ofer, owner of Eastern Pacific Shipping, is in 120th place, with $15.8bn.

Fortescue Metals tycoon Andrew Forrest, who owns bulkers, comes in at No 101 with a fortune of $19bn.

And Cypriot citizen John Fredriksen ranks at No 108. He is worth $16.9bn through his tankers, bulkers, LNG carriers and other investments.

Forbes said it had been “a banner year” for the mega-wealthy. There are now 2,781 billionaires, up 141 from 2023, and their combined wealth hit a record $14.2trn, up $2trn in a year.

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