The average person on the street might guess his cheap shoes were made in China, or that the oil in his car comes from the Middle East. But almost no one understands how these goods end up where they are.
In her new book, Ninety Percent of Everything, investigative journalist Rose George examines the global freight shipping complex–the all-but-hidden mess of an industry that undergirds the entire global economy yet somehow manages to avoid major scrutiny for its environmental and labor practices.
“We’re all worried about our fair-trade coffee and about sweatshop workers, so we want to buy ethically sourced clothes. But none of that applies to how the goods are shipped,” George tells Co.Exist.
George managed to get access–extremely rare for an outsider–to travel aboard a container ship belonging to
Dutch Danish shipping conglomerate Maersk. In the book, she describes several high-seas journeys as she called in ports from Singapore to Rotterdam and cruised the Indian Ocean on patrol for pirates. What struck her the most was how truly isolated the seafarers were aboard their ships for months at a time–far from any free communication, and, really, any rule of law. [read]