How the Shipping Industry is the Secret Force Driving the World Economy

How the Shipping Industry is the Secret Force Driving the World Economy | Ideas & Innovations | Smithsonian Magazine.

I thought this was pretty good, despite the reservations I have from only seeing this article. It’s an interview with author Rose George about her latest book: Ninety Percent of Everything. She somehow arranged to spend some time sailing around on the container ship Maersk Kendal. I’m going to have to find a copy of this book to read. 🙂

a container ship underway

a container ship underway

She makes a lot of good points. That people who aren’t personally involved with shipping are totally unaware of the industry. That those of us living in ‘first world’ countries don’t know any seafarers personally any more. That the ports have been moved so far away from the cities that most people don’t have any awareness of them anymore. That people on the beach have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be a seafarer.

I do think she got a lot of that correct. She sees how isolating it is out here now. She mentions the lack of communication and that the ships don’t provide internet or phone access to their crews (because of the expense). I do agree that it is an expense. I do not agree that it is an ‘extra’ expense. I don’t think it’s very much to pay a couple of thousand dollars a month when that would be something like 1% of expenses on most ships (if that). Isn’t it worth that for such a HUGE increase in crew morale?

a tank ship underway

a tank ship underway

I don’t really know if she’s right in her assessment of how much or how little sailors have a ‘sense of romanticism’. She mentions that she thinks the captain has more of it then he lets on, that he still secretly loves the sea.

She seems to think that most sailors are only out here for the money. I might agree that most sailors from the poorer parts of the world go to sea for the money. They probably went to sea because it paid better than anything they could find at home.

I would agree that the great majority of seafarers are not in a great position at sea. Some of the conditions sailors work under are just horrible. A lot of shipowners do flag foreign just so they can cut expenses.

They all say that the cost of the crew is their largest expense so they cut it any way they can. They cut the crew size, they lengthen the hitch (2 YEARS or more), they skimp on groceries, they skimp on medical care, they refuse to pay for visas so the crew can’t leave the ship in port, etc.

That’s not even to start on the issue of crew abandonment. Rose George seems to think the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) will help. I’ve seen in the news there have already been 3 ships detained, but I have serious doubts it will actually help the crews.

In spite of conditions like that, I believe most seafarers do still enjoy sailing (at least sometimes). 😉

romanticism of life at sea

romanticism of life at sea

I know I still do. Most of the time. 😉

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