The invisible industry

I’m not the only person fascinated by shipping containers.

Bill Gates named Marc Levinson’s [amazon_link id=”0691136408″ target=”_blank” ]The Box[/amazon_link] as one of the best books he read last year.

[amazon_image id=”0691136408″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger[/amazon_image]

Another such person is my correspondent Thomas Marnane, for the understandable reason that he worked in the industry, for Matson Navigation, for many years.

Capt. Marnane just wrote to me about Rose George’s book [amazon_link id=”1846272637″ target=”_blank” ]Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that brings you Ninety Percent of Everything[/amazon_link], which he says is, “A very readable and enjoyable book with a different and thoughtful slant.”

[amazon_image id=”1846272637″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything[/amazon_image]

“I enjoyed Ms George”s insights on her time on a container ship–especially the crew relationships (or lack thereof)–a very different experience from any of my times on Navy and commercial ships (several countries).  I think without the camaraderie, sharing of diverse and common interests and card and game playing etc. that I enjoyed I would not have liked sea duty–and I did–even submerged.  Our Matson ships of today are a pleasure to be on–albeit all US crews.  Ms George provides good observations of ship operations as well and justifiably laments the good old days when port stops were longer (but turnaround longer and productivity less also).

“I felt that the sort of “environmentally indefensible” overtones were more for book selling rather than enlightening or compelling and were overdone–especially in the publicity for the book.  I admit to a bias toward ships and the people who own and sail them but my overall experience has been that sailors for the most work to take care of the sea, their ships, their public and their customers.  They work to improve productivity by reducing waste and pollution (nobody likes anything but an “economy haze” in the exhaust from their drive engines).  To paint the maritime industry as contaminating our waters, our air and our sound signatures has merit but only in the sense that any human activity such as driving cars, flying, etc. has– on a per ton miles moved and service to the world you can’t beat it.  She acknowledges this briefly later on in her book and notes the efficient energy expended to weight carried ratio enjoyed by ship transportation.  I think a survey of the large shipping lines will demonstrate a continual bias toward the environment and productivity (which in my mind are synonymous) and I am proud of the industry for that.”

He adds:

“I have just embarked on a new reading adventure [amazon_link id=”1782393552″ target=”_blank” ]The Sea and Civilization, a Maritime History of the World [/amazon_link]by Lincoln Paine.  At over 700 pages and relatively small print it is an adventure which I may not complete before the book has to be returned to the library  ……   I am afraid that for “containerization” aficionados you will have to wait until page 582 for gratification.  The book is actually very well done and for a naval architect and sailor it is quite absorbing and very readable.”

[amazon_image id=”1782393552″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World[/amazon_image]