Well, to summarise the last 30 odd years quite a tall order. I will keep it as short as I can.
I was made redundant by LOF in 1985. However they owed me a lot of leave and study leave, and I took my Master’s ticket in Plymouth. I got the Griffiths Award for my Master’s ticket.
I then lived in Falmouth.
I became interested in law while at sea, and while studying in Plymouth I was made aware that the sea and law go together. I was put in touch with some people in London who convinced me it was true!
So I applied to study law at university and to my surprise got an unconditional place at the University of Cambridge. If I had applied just as I left school they would have laughed at me with contempt.
I moved to Bar Hill and studied law at Cambridge 1986-89.
I went to Law School in Chancery Lane in 1989-90. I joined a well known London shipping law firm in 1990 as a trainee solicitor, qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and made partner quickly by 1996.
So I did a lot of shipping law including several high profile casualties such as the MSC Carla (split in two mid-Atlantic). For personal reasons I left the partnership and moved to the North of England P&I in Newcastle in 2003.
My main client while lawyering in London was MSC. Within a few months of my moving to Newcastle the owner of MSC, Mr. Aponte, phoned me and asked me to come and work for him in Geneva, which is where I am now.
I work directly for Mr. Aponte and his son Diego, and anyone else in the family as required. I am the General Counsel of the company and I have a Department of 30 lawyers working for me (the Corporate Legal Department). It was a new role so I have built the Department to this since arriving – I spent several years working on my own.
MSC operates over 490 container ships (it changes day by day as time chartered vessels go on and off hire) of which about 260 are owned, with a carrying capacity of over 3 million TEUs. I don’t know how many containers we move a year, it might be 16 million TEU (full, not empty) or more this year. The structure of container shipping is very complex because we have to find our own cargo and to have the right size/type empty containers in the right place at the right time and strings of vessels with the capacity to carry them to get the business. It is quite seasonal. We have over 400 agency offices around the world, plus cargo planning centres, our own ship repair companies, two ship management companies, our own crewing companies in Italy, India and Ukraine etc. We are also quite big in logistics owning depots, cold stores, packing centres, trucking companies and railways around the world. These business generate a lot of legal work and I do the high level stuff, I do not do cargo damage, dock damage etc. for which there is a Claims Department. But I still handle the collisions.
We also have cruise vessels, 13 now and another 12 on order. I used to the do the cruises legal work when it was 4 small old cruise ships (just a hobby for Mr. Aponte at that time), but he decided to get serious. The old vessels are long gone and cruises has grown up with its own HQ and legal department close by in Geneva. I just get the occasional invitation to a naming ceremony such as the MSC Meraviglia earlier this year.
I also played a part building the terminals company but again that has grown up and has its own legal department now. I was involved in acquiring interests in about 25 container terminals world wide, but there are 34 now.
The family own a lot of other stuff but my involvement with these is very occasional and sporadic. It all makes for an interesting job, as does working for the family. Mr. Aponte is 76 but he still does 9am to 9pm every day plus at least half a day on both Saturdays and Sundays!
Many thanks to Frank for his resumé – if anyone wants to contact Frank he is registered on the message-board.