“The Invisible Industry”

The “Ten Legitimately Fascinating Facts About the Shipping Industry” in this post at The Atlantic are pulled from a new book entitled Ninety Per Cent of Everything, by Rose George. George wrote the book after spending months at sea “on various massive ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls.” The title of the book is based on the fact almost 90% of everything we buy arrives by ship; there are at least 20 million containers travelling across the ocean at this moment. And similar to how it’s presently cheaper to ship Canadian softwood lumber to China than on a flatbed to the Dakotas, it’s also reportedly “less expensive to ship Scottish cod 10,000 miles away to China to be filleted and then sent back to Scotland than it is to pay Scottish filleters to do the job.” Among other things, I was interested to learn that shipping is the ‘greenest’ mass transport: “Compared to the energy expended moving goods by plane or truck, shipping is far less damaging in terms of greenhouse gases released.”

Upon forwarding this story to a shipbroker friend here in Vancouver, he replied “China imports about 750 million tons per annum of iron ore – over two million tons per DAY. In addition, domestic production is a further 640 odd million tons. Approximately 25 million tons each of coal and grains are shipped through B.C. ports alone.” Recent data for B.C. lumber shipments to China is available in an earlier post here.

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