Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the invisible industry that brings you 90% of everything (3)

10 Oct

The importance and impact of the Shipping Industry

Although it’s not a perfect book, with a few chapters that i found to be weaker, even fillers, there were some that i enjoyed because i never expected them to be included. For example the impact of shipping on sea life and in particular whales was one of the strong ones.

“We lay cables across its (ocean) bed and drive piles into its floor. We fire airguns that have the force of dynamite to carry out seismic surveys. Our fishermen send out constant pings – echolocation – to find fish. Our militaries deploy sonar that induces the bends in doplhons, porpoises and whales, so that they arrive in mass standings on beaches with blood on their brains and coming from their ears; with air bubbles in their lungs; with all the signs that unfortunate divers display when they rise too soon through water.”

In an extraordinary week following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, for the first time noise pollution was temporarily removed from the oceans because all commercial aircraft and ship movement was suspended. As a result,

“…underwater noise was lower by 6 decibels, and the levels of whales’ stress related faecal hormone metabolites were lower too.”

It’s a strong chapter throughout.

Another fascinating chapter is about the important role played by the merchant navies in World War II and how the demise of the US and UK merchant navies and the reduction of available men from these countries could impact a future war.

Rose George covers a lot of other areas such as the Suez Canal, religion on ships, psychological problems faced by people who are at sea for months and rescues of sinking ships.

However i will not go into them and i will end this trilogy of posts on Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Shipping, Inside the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything with how it begins. With the importance it has in international trade and in our daily lives.

“The biggest container ship can carry 15,000 boxes. It can hold 746 million bananas, one for every European, on one ship. If the container ships of Maersk alone were lined up, they would stretch 11,000 miles, or more than halfway round the planet. If they were stacked instead, they would be 1500 miles high, 7530 Eiffel Towers.”

In 2014 bigger ships are expected which will be able to carry 18,000 boxes.The triple-E. Maersk has ordered twenty of these ships from South Korea’s shipyards.


All these volumes have helped to make shipping so cheap that “it makes more financial sense for Scottish cod to be sent 10,000 miles to China to be filleted and then sent back to Scottish shops and restaurants, than to pay Scottish filleters.”

Even though it’s a huge industry and vital to trade, it has a darker side.

For one, shipping’s success comes at a cost. It’s more efficient than trucks and planes in terms of grams of CO2 per ton per mile but because of it’s size the total emissions from ships are more than aviation and road transport. In fact:

“Ships create more pollution than Germany”

Also in terms of how it treats the people who serve in it and the complicated ownership structures used with flags of convenience.

I will end with the following two appropriate quotes which raise the question of how proud we should be here in Cyprus to have our shipping industry and to be a flag of convenience.

“Imagine you have a problem (as an employee) on a ship while you are on that ship. Who do you complain to, when you are employeed by a Manila manning agency on a ship owned by an American, flagged by Panama, and managed by a Cypriot, in international waters?”

“In 2001, 63% of all ship losses at sea were registered to only 13 flags of convenience. The five worst performers were Panama, Cyprus, St. Vincent, Cambodia and Malta.”

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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Books


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