on 25 December 2015
Great book. But note that this book and Ninety Percent of Everything are IDENTICAL apart from US/ English spelling. The listing on Amazon does not make this clear, so I ended up buying both via Amazon's "People of bought that also bought this"
on 13 September 2014
The tragedy of shipping spelt out loud and clear
Despite having friends and family who are/were in the 'merchant navy' I am just as ignorant as Joanne Public of not only our complete dependence on shipping, but, the horrific conditions the mariners work under. Ditto the Gordian knot of flags and shell companies the true owners hide behind when anything goes wrong; the appalling impact on whales and other sea-life; the brutality of captivity for pirate hostages; etc. Every chapter brought a new aspect of this unknown multi-billion pound industry into the limelight for me. Another must-read from Rose George who manages that extremely difficult feat - dealing with jinormous amounts of diverse research, and transforming it through superb writing into an unputdownable page-turner.
on 19 October 2013
As an ex seafarer I thought Rose George gave an excellent well researched story. The interesting point I found was that the opening chapter when she joined the ship was exactly as it was with me in 1963 when I could not get off the ship because my relief had not arrived due to the bad weather, and after 12 months being at sea I was not a happy bunny.!! The expression on a prison was true as in those days we did 12 month trips and as an engineer with steam engines there were occasions when I did six months between having my feet on dry land due to being on tankers with 24 hour turn rounds. In those days Britain had a merchant navy and the majority of the ships were crewed with UK nationals, there were no such things as mobiles and as for compassionate leave forget it. However it gave an excellent training and it was relatively well paid, the major reasons for being at sea.
A first class account of what is happening at sea today
on 13 December 2014
This most unsexy of subjects somehow caught my attention. After a few chapters it had me riveted.
Talk about beneath the radar, the underworld of shipping witnessed first hand by a journalist who went to sea. This is a major industry with little policing – shipwrecks, wages, emissions, losses at sea of people and cargo. It makes Francis Drake sound like a saint.
Shipping is fundamental to our lives. TV’s and hifi’s, clothes, jewelry, crude oil, fuel, wheat, fruit, nearly everything comes in tankers or containers to Immingham, Felixtowe, Southampton and Liverpool. Container ships and natural gas tankers are now so huge they need their own terminals to dock.
Flags of convenience and 12 mile offshore limits apparently turn the open seas into an area of no responsibility when things go wrong. How do you track the owner of a ship registered in Panama or Liberia several layers of shell companies away from the operator?
Life is cheap at sea. The International Maritime Union reckon there are 2 substantial shipwrecks a week and 2,000 people a year lost at sea, but once you are outside the 12 mile limit, you do your own thing. Supposedly the UN’s Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the International Conventions for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and for the Prevention of Pollution from ships at Sea (MARPOL) all specify that flag states should carry out prompt investigation into loss of life at sea. But does Panama?
Compared to planes and trucks, shipping is a green form of mass transport. But because it is such a big industry and giant ships can emit as much pollution as a coal fired power station, shipping as an industry creates more pollution than Germany as a country. Bunker fuel burnt by ships is cheap but dirty. Paper and sewage can be discharged outside the 12 mile limit even with cruise ships carrying some 6,000 passengers. No one has yet been imprisoned for environmental damage caused by ships, because the IMO has only just released regulations to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
Pirates are real and not just around Somalia. The Portugese navy will fire at fast outboard pirate boats. But most navies will not. And captured and detained pirates know that their captors have little chance of finding a nation state to prosecute. Most detained pirates are released.
Whether it is shipwrecks, acoustic pollution of whales, pirates or sea chaplains, the stories are personal and vivid.
on 6 September 2015
Rose George is a journalist, and although she paints an excellent story of her voyage on the Maersk Kendal her ability to understand seagoing life is somewhat limited.
The main thorn in my flesh was the consistent use of incorrect seagoing language – no we do not have ceilings, they are deckheads, we don’t have walls we have bulkheads, and although Radio Officer has now gone we never had a radio operator!
British Military Supply Vessels do not exist, it is the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Wave Knight, and it is irritating inaccuracies like this that is most annoying about the book. I appreciate that Ms George is not a member of any marine body but I would expect any self-respecting journalist to check the terms used carefully.
Enough said about the language of the sea... In other areas the book was well researched, especially about the pirates of Somalia, Mission to Seamen and sea ecology. Quite interestingly she does highlight the idiocy of having to provision these pirates in their skiffs if found at sea and not to blast them out the water.
I found that the ecology and sea life fascinating, but it had little to do with life onboard the Maersk Kendal apart from having consistent digs at the fumes emitted from the merchant ships at sea.
Finally it is radar assisted collisions and not VHF assisted collisions, bon voyage and good reading.
on 25 October 2013
From Felixstowe to Singapore through the Suez Canal into the high risk pirate waters of East Africa: Rose George’s book is an interesting collection of essays drawn together with a travelogue of a trip on one of Maerk’s ships.
The book takes numerous de-tours through the role of seaman’s missions, the EU’s anti-piracy flag ship which turns out to be more of a escort vessel, through whale enthusiasts of the American cost who believe that ships are damaging whales. All this makes it seem like the Maersk journey and the tails are just a threat holding bundles of research together.
George makes no real attempt to immerse herself in the ship, refusing to take a watch in the Engine Room, making comments about the ships food, spending hours on the bridge and in the Captain’s cabin rather than nail gunning the deck and constantly check container temperatures with those who do.
Arriving in Singapore George speaks about not wanting to leave the ship, sadly I left with little understanding of the container industry, only an outsiders view of one ship and lot of research.
on 4 September 2014
A fascinating look at the world of Container Shipping. its a world I knew well for many years, but in the short time since I left it, it has changed dramatically - and not in a good way!!
Well done Rose George.
The author - Rose George - is a journalist that decided to spend some time on one of Maersk's container ships as an embedded observer, so as to better be able to convey to the general readership what life at sea is like today for the merchant mariners.
The book fuses the author's impressions of the journey from the UK to the Far East with specific topics she wants to cover, from recruitment and promotion, to the demographic change in the various merchant marines, the flag of convenience rules, piracy, the role of various churches, etc. As such it is an eclectic mix and will give readers a fairly broad - if then consequently not particularly deep - coverage of the subject area.
While it will probably not quite satisfy those looking for a more in-depth treatise on the economics of sea transportation, it may just give a more balanced view to people considering the merchant marine as a career prospect, and will probably serve adequately as reading for those with friends, spouses or relatives in such an occupation, so as to give them some more understanding of the trials and tribulations of the job.
on 9 October 2014
A hugely insightful trip inside an industry that is invisible to all except those who live in or near key trading ports. This really gets inside the industry that brings us "90% of everything" - from your headphones to your clothes to your cars, etc. George writes with confidence and with a style that engages the reader from start to finish and her trip along the Suez Canal and then into the Gulf of Aden into high risk piracy waters has the pace and rhythm of an engaging novel. This book is a 'page-turner'. Interesting, too, that those inside this industry - such as the writers behind the excellent publication/website 'Marine Insight' - rank this as the number one book to enlighten the public and seafarers alike. If you love shipping, seafaring adventures, international trade, or you just want to learn a few things, this is the book for you.
on 22 October 2013
This book is an impressive culmination of Rose George's direct experience and related extensive research into the often un-seen world of merchant shipping. She should be proud of her achievement. Being still only in her forties, hopefully she will go on to write many more books.
The book's central thread, running all the way through it, is the author's journey on a Maersk container ship: Kendal. She travels as an observing passenger on Kendal's trip from Felixstowe to Singapore.
Container ships have long held a fascination for me, since I observed them being loaded and unloaded from a hotel room near Sydney harbour. I think it is their shear size that mesmerizes me. But, as Rose George points out in her book, dockyards are now steeped in security and are off-limits to members of the general public, so my observations in England have been limited to watching them move along the horizon in the Channel. Some are so large that from an elevated position on the South Downs some miles distant from the coast, they appear as large rectangular lumps moving from left to right across the horizontal line where the sea meets the atmosphere.
This book gives me a detailed vicarious experience of what it is like to be on a container ship and I am very grateful to her for this. Now when I see them on the horizon I can imagine what is going on within the ship.
In many other hands this material could have been conveyed in quite a dry manner, rendering the subject totally boring. But Rose George's writing is superb: intelligent, highly informative, very engaging and even humorous at times. She brings this distant offshore world to life in a fascinating and page-turning account, which includes related subjects such as the effect of shipping on the well-being of whales, piracy, shipwrecks and rescues and seafarers conditions.
This book most definitely belongs in my must read category.