Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ship to Shelf

My weekly book post on s+b's blogs is about journalist and author Rose George's recounting of her voyage on a container ship, transporting goods across the globe:

From Halfway around the World to a Store Near You

Labels make for interesting reading in the era of globalization. For US$1, I can buy a pound of apples
from New Zealand or a pair of gym socks made in Honduras. How can goods like these be shipped thousands of miles and still be sold for a profit in my hometown of Williamsburg, Va.? Rose George’s new book, Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate (Metropolitan Books, 2013), offers part of the answer: container ships, like the Maersk Kendal.

George shipped out on the Kendal for 39 days—“six ports, two oceans, five seas”—as part of her research, much like John McPhee did for his book on the U.S. Merchant Marine, Looking for a Ship (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990). Four stories high and three football fields long, the “midsized” Kendal holds 6,188 20-foot containers. Its owner, A.P. Møller-Maersk A/S, a Danish company with $60 billion in annual revenues, is currently financing the construction of a fleet of 20 “Triple-E” ships that are a third longer than the Kendal and hold three times as many containers—reducing the cost of shipping a container by 20 to 30 percent. Three Triple-Es are already in service. They are too big to enter any port in the U.S. or pass through the Panama Canal. Instead, they travel between Europe and Asia via the Suez Canal.

But ships alone, not matter how big, are not enough to supply us with apples, socks, and myriad other goods from around the the rest here

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