Inside shipping

I’ve loved reading Deep Sea and Foreign Going by Rose George. It’s been out a while – this was the new paperback. It’s a superb piece of reportage by somebody who is obviously a very thorough and careful researcher. The shipping industry fascinates me – it has at least since I read the now-classic The Box when it was first published, and realised how interesting and complicated this industry, the circulatory system of the global economy, actually is. As this book’s subtitle puts it, it’s the invisible industry that brings you 90% of everything.

Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything    The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

George covers issues ranging from the economics of freight shipping in general, the flagging out system, the race to the bottom in the workers’ pay and conditions, the surge in piracy in the Indian Ocean and its economics, the damage done to sea life especially whales by the big ships, the rubbish in the oceans,the the carbon footprint of the shipping industry, and more.The piracy chapter is particularly fascinating as a piece of economic analysis, including the bargaining that goes on over hostages – and there are many more of these than you realise, it’s just that a high proportion are Chinese or Indian seafarers.

It includes masses of detail, the sign of a true observer. Why is it still a tradition to knit woolly hats for seamen’s missions? What do marines do on the naval vessels patrolling the Indian Ocean when they’re not doing fighting stuff? How do you spend empty days at sea out of range of mobile masts and the internet? Who needs bribing with what as the vessel makes its way through the Suez Canal? What languages are used in on-board announcements when the crew is as globalised as can be?

Highly recommended, especially as a holiday read, and even more so if you’re off on a boat somewhere.


One thought on “Inside shipping

  1. Once we all knew and were fully aware of the importance of the maritime services to the nation and the economy. Now few of us are it is almost incidental to the media etc. if that. My father and grandfather both had spells on ships and two of the four great granddads spent their career in the boiler rooms. We could pay a heavy price for our ignorance and insouciance about who delivers the goods and the food.

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