Eye-opening and compelling, the overlooked world of freight shipping, revealed as the foundation of our civilization
On ship-tracking websites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy. We buy, so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work.
Freight shipping has been no less revolutionary than the printing press or the Internet, yet it is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, shipping revels in suspect practices, dubious operators, and a shady system of "flags of convenience." Infesting our waters, poisoning our air, and a prime culprit of acoustic pollution, shipping is environmentally indefensible. And then there are the pirates.
Rose George, acclaimed chronicler of what we would rather ignore, sails from Rotterdam to Suez to Singapore on ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; she patrols the Indian Ocean with an anti-piracy task force; she joins seafaring chaplains, and investigates the harm that ships inflict on endangered whales.
Sharply informative and entertaining, Ninety Percent of Everything reveals the workings and perils of an unseen world that holds the key to our economy, our environment, and our very civilization.
Though the romance is gone from seafaring life, journalist George's (The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters) multifaceted exploration of the global shipping industry gamely reintroduces an element of wonder. Nearly all goods sold worldwide are transported by container ship, which make workaday passage through the Straits of Malacca, the Suez Canal, and other channels kept in constant motion by an expanding global economy. One of George's main points is that freight shipping remains largely behind the scenes, leading to a byzantine system of concealed ownership structures, convoluted regulations, a labor force largely drawn from developing nations, and inhumane working conditions. In a lengthy, thoughtful section, George takes to sea on the Kendal, a container ship of the Maersk shipping line, and explores these issues, and the very real threat of piracy along the Somali coast. George's work unfortunately suffers from a civilian's perspective on a closed professional fraternity. She searches for the poetry and elevated thought that informs literary accounts of a life at sea, but as one of the pragmatic crewmen notes: "For us, it is just work." 10 b&w illus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Good Book, Lacking Followthrough
As a logisitics major in college I was instantly drawn to this book when I saw it. The fact that Rose George took the brave journey through pirate waters and across the world is a feet in and of itself. The book is a great read, full of fascinating insights, human stories, and facts about this shadow industry. However, I felt the book lacked a certain amount of followthrough. There could have been more about port actions, and the regulatory environment around shipping. I loved this book, it’s worht a read, it’s just not perfect.
Great book marred by format error
This is a fact filled, well written account of seafaring, grounded in sleek modern container ships but rich in history as well. But I was furious to reach the end, only to find pages and pages of unmoored footnotes without any attachment to the source text, like so many lifeboats packed with survivors, left to drift unread on the Sea of Forgotten Words. Really, guys, FIX this! It dropped my rating from 5 stars to 3, and this writing deserves equally good translation to iBooks.