Tag Archives: shipping

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

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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Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the invisible industry that brings you 90% of everything (2)

Somali Piracy

Somalia, until a few years ago, was the first country that came to mind when people talked of a failed state. A poor country with desperate people living in it. Much like Afghanistan and the Taliban era, this allows terrorist organisations like Al-Shabaab to grow. Most people are now aware of this organisation after the mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.

However, Somalia has been on the map of the shipping industry for a few years now.

“544 taken hostage in the first six months of 2010, with 360 still being held. Thirteen ships hijacked.”

File:Somalian Piracy Threat Map 2010.png

This piracy has forced nations from all over the world to send warships in the area to patrol and protect merchant navy ships in the area.

“…patrolled by military ships from three coalition counter-piracy forces: one from the EU, one run by NATO, and the Combines Task Force, led by the United States……. Besides the task forces, there are other navies acting independently of coalitions, including those of Russia, Korea, India, Japan and China.”

“The Chinese Navy is on piracy patrol, but is also well placed to support its growing presence in Africa. If you want a window into future geopolitcs, the Indian Ocean has a good view.”

The pirates adjusted to the increased presence of military ships by using captured ships as mother ships and also expanding their reach to a wider range as you can see from the map above.

Prosecuting captured pirates has been almost impossible because nations are unwilling to take them. Only Kenya and Seychelles do so, after accepting aid from richer nations.

With the counter-piracy measures taken and also the armed security personnel hired aboard ships it seems that piracy in East Africa is now dimming with increased piracy now taking place in West Africa.

The piracy chapters are some of the most fascinating in the book. Who would have thought that the early 21st century would be prove to be a golden age for piracy.

The third and final part is tomorrow.

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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Books


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AP Moller Maersk – FT articles

In an extraordinary coincidence the Financial Times has two articles on AP Moller Maersk today. The first is an interview with the company’s CEO, Nils Andersen and the second on the Arctic shipping routes.

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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Recommended articles


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

A few weeks ago i watched the excellent Danish film, A Hijacking (2013). It tells the story of the cargo ship MV Rozen and its hijacking by Somali pirates in the Indian ocean. It’s a thriller, with the negotiation between the owner company and the pirates for the release of both the ship and the crew. It was the nail biting back and forth of the negotiations together with the mental stress endured by the company’s negotiator and the ship’s crew that made the film so interesting. The success of the film is in making you feel and understand the enormous pressure these people were under.

Although i found the whole premise of the movie fresh i did not give much more thought to it. For example, the extent of the Somali piracy in the real world, the shipping industry in general and finally the question of why of all people the Danes would made such a movie.

As luck would have it, the next day i read a book review in the Financial Times of Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, The Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything written by the british journalist and author Rose George. Convinced by the (excellent) review i bought the book and started reading within 5 minutes. It contained answers to all the questions i should have asked after watching A Hijacking.

Let’s start with the last one:

Why would the Danes, of all people, make a movie about a cargo ship being hijacked in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates?

As Rose is writing about the shipping industry, she is aboard a container ship, Maersk Kendal, making the journey from the english port of Felixstowe and heading to Singapore. The owner of the ship is “A.P. Moeller-Maerk, Denmark’s largest company, its sales equal to 20% of Denmark’s GDP; its ships use more oil than the entire nation.”

The company, “..through its subsidiary Maersk Line – now operates the largest container shipping company in the world, with a fleet of 600 vessels. It is active in 130 countries and has 117,000 employees.”

She continues with this eye opening fact and observation:

“Its revenues in 2011 amounted to $60,2 billion, only slightly less than Microsoft’s. Microsoft provides the software that runs computers; Maersk brings us the computers. One is infamous; somehow the other is mostly invisible.

Maersk was invisible to me too until i started reading the book, and now i see its seven point star logo whenever i look at a container either parked or carried by a truck. In fact i registered the first sighting of a Maersk container on the Nicosia-Limassol highway about ten days ago. Believe me when i say that after seeing this logo you realise that Maersk is everywhere and it’s the answer to my question above.

File:Maersk Group Logo.jpeg

To be continued

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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Books


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