FEBRUARY 26, 2008

MSC aims for the F1 crowd

MSC Cruises, a division of the giant Mediterranean Shipping Company, the second largest container shipping firm in the world, is to enter Formula 1 this year as a trackside sponsor at four races. The deal is probably worth in the region $20m but this will depend on the number of signs and bridges at the events in question.

MSC is in the process of building four giant new cruises ships as part of its plan to grab a larger share of the growing cruise ship market. The MSC Fantasia is the biggest ship to be built by a European cruise line and weighs 133,500 tons. This is still smaller than Cunard's flagship, the Queen Mary II, but Fantasia will still be able to carry nearly 4000 passengers after it is launched in December this year. This will be followed by a sister ship called the MSC Splendida in 2009, while the company will also launching the 3000-passenger, 89,000 ton MSC Poesia later this year with a sister ship called the MSC Magnifica due 2010.

The company says that the plan is to make the ships the destination for tourists rather than the ports they visit. The ships will feature all manner of luxury items including a Formula 1 simulator.

The cruise line started in 1988 when MSC bought the old Lauro Line, which had suffered badly after its ship the Achille Lauro was hijacked by members of the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985. The Achille Lauro caught fire and sank in 1994, resulting in the decision to change the name of the company to MSC.