- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (August 13, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805092633
- ISBN-13: 978-0805092639
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 0.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (194 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
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. (Aug.)
In her debut work of nonfiction, The Big Necessity (2008), George profiled the generally unmentionable topic of human waste. In a similar vein, her latest work plumbs the ins and outs of the shipping industry, a subject that can more easily be discussed in polite company but somehow rarely is. It turns out shipping’s virtual invisibility has as much to do with deliberate attempts by industry magnates to deflect scrutiny of unsafe working conditions and shady business dealings as it does with public indifference. In between chapters describing the voyage she took on the massive, 20-story freighter Maersk Kendal to research her book, George provides a wealth of detail about shipping’s inner workings, from statistics on the amount and types of ships crossing our oceans to snapshots of the unheralded crew members who keep them running. She is also unsparing in exposing the hazards of contemporary seafaring life, including often unreported but rampant acts of piracy. George provides an engaging, much-needed, and in-depth tribute to shipping’s essential role in providing worldwide goods and services. --Carl Hays
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Top Customer Reviews
The author goes on a trip from Britain to Singapore on a Maersk ship with a British master and an international crew. We get to know the master, who is at the end of his career, and many of his crew members. She details just how monotonous the trip is, and how dangerous it is as the ship goes around the Horn of Africa. Rather than let us suffer through a dreary accounting of that voyage, she digresses into stories about various aspects of the shipping industry.
The author tells us about ships that sink, ships that are abandoned when it's no longer profitable to run them (along with their unfortunate crews), the abuses that come along with the Flag of Convenience system, and mostly the difficulty of going to sea. The shipping business has changed greatly from my great grandfather's time. In his day, there were still sailing ships, and ships under power burned coal. The crew sizes were much larger, and cargo loading and unloading was done by hand. A ship might be in port for weeks while its cargo was unloaded and new cargo loaded.
The author explains how today ships have much smaller crews. With containerization loading and unloading takes hours instead of days or weeks. The city docks in port cities are closed, and now the ships pull up to container ports far away from the centers of the cities. The crews get little or no shore leave, so basically they spend months confined to the ship with no release from the monotony.
I found the book fascinating, but I was disappointed to see that seafaring life isn't what it was in my great grandfather's time. In some ways it has improved (seaman aren't locked in chains or shanghaied like they were in his day), but in other ways it has gotten worse. Being a seafarer has never been easy, and the author effectively conveys this message. However, I always thought being a merchant seaman would be an adventurous life, but that era apparently has passed. I find that very sad.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting depiction of life at sea and where it is headed.
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