Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Deep Sea and Foreign Going by Rose George

So what happened after the end of the general cargo line merchant fleets such as Blue Funnel? Well that is covered by Rose George's very readable book "Deep Sea and Foreign Going".

Confusingly this book has another cover and is called "Ninety Percent of Everything" in the US.

Modern shipping seems to have lost a lot of its mystique and the container mechanisation has driven the industry towards the lowest cost which involves flags of convenience, wages not being paid, negligible shore leave, limited facilities, long, long hours and dismal food.

The core of the book is the description of the author's journey on the Maersk Kendal from the UK to Singapore through pirate infested waters off Somalia, where she also joined one of the navel vessels patrolling those waters.

The Maersk Kendal sounds like one of the better run, with skipper with four decades of experience, who did actually respond to a mayday when he heard one (and not all do). But it is a hard life, with just 21 people running a ship with 6,188 containers.

No longer the crew can look forward to extensive time ashore while the dockers struggle to empty and re-fill the holds. Cranes swap containers in and out, and often there is only a few hours, hardly enough to leave the acres of the docks, just time to pick up a sim card and batteries at inflated prices.

One crew asked Father Colum Kelly at the seaman's mission at Immingham (as seen on this week's episode of the BBC's Coast series) if they could help them walk on grass, just to make a change from metal and concrete. The mission is funded by a £ 10 voluntary charge on each ship: and all too often that little amount is rejected by the cost cutting shipping lines.

Modern shipping is boring and fascinating at the same time.

I wouldn't want to work on one of these hard driven shipping assets but wouldn't mind experiencing what it is like to travel on one.

However that is increasingly hard to do and so reading this book is a recommended alternative.

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