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The secret world of cargo ships (theweek.com)
138 points by danso on Nov 11, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 102 comments



> "Before containers, transport costs ate up to 25 percent of the value of whatever was being shipped."

And lost you a portion of the cargo if you were shipping something the dockyard workers had a fancy for (Barrels of whiskey "accidentally broken" during loading was a common one.)

There is a fantastic BBC documentary called "The Box that changed Britain" which charts the rise of containerization and the massive affect it had on maritime trade, the ports and workers.


There are also two good books I know of about the topic of containers: "The Box" and "Ninety Percent of Everything".


This article is an excerpt of "Ninety Percent of Everything".


The second season of The Wire is also an interesting look at dock workers in the modern world.


I'd hazard a guess that that was a large proportion of the 25%.


I doubt it. It would take days, even weeks to unload a ship, using lots of people, as opposed to hours and a few people.


There's a great book about the shipping container:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Box-Shipping-Container-Smaller/dp/...

It is hard to imagine a company like Amazon being successful without the humble shipping container...before its time, a ship could spend as much time loading and unloading as it would to cross the entire Atlantic.

I also think the value of the shipping container is a great analogy for any kind of logistics...such as he importance of structured data when building any kind of web app...non devs have. A hard time grasping how something as simple as a spreadsheet is so vital to collecting and organizing info for an interactive app.


It's only mentioned at the end, but this article is an excerpt from a book as well: http://www.amazon.com/Ninety-Percent-Everything-Shipping-Inv...


Great book, too - I've almost finished it. (It's titled "Deep Sea and Foreign Going" here in the UK.)


Sorry about the lengthy quote, but this is an incredible collection of non-sequitors and random free-association alarmism:

IN 2004, Al QAIDA reportedly recruited a maritime expert. U.S. security sources revealed in 2010 that the organization had been working out how best to blow up oil tankers. Though why bother with intercontinental missiles or explosives, the urban planning academic Stephen Cohen writes, when you can just ship everything you need in parts and assemble it at the required destination? "Containers...are the poor man's missiles: you no longer have to be a big powerful government to create catastrophe." In 2003, ABC News shipped depleted uranium from Jakarta to Los Angeles in an attempt to expose the weaknesses in port barriers. The stunt didn't go down well at the Department of Homeland Security, whose declared mission is to "stop dangerous things and dangerous people from entering the country," even if those dangerous things are sent by people from a national news channel. In fact, shipping uranium is legal, as long as you declare it. ABC didn't, and no one checked.

Connecting the sea to terrorism has become popular in security studies. Al Qaida certainly understands ships: not only because it rammed the USS Cole with a boat, but because it is thought to own or charter a small fleet. North Korea has its own flag, a fleet of 242 vessels, and the ability to make maritime mischief. Lloyd's List reported in 2012 that 120 vessels had reported GPS malfunctions in seas near North Korea, in an article that suspected the work of a North Korean signals jammer.

A senior government official was asked in 2002 about the threat of maritime terrorism. "This industry is a shadowy underworld," he said. "After 9/11 we suddenly realized how little we understood about commercial shipping." In 2010, Nigerian security forces discovered 240 tons of rockets, mortar shells, and small arms ammunition in 13 containers that had been shipped on the German-owned, French-operated, Marshall Islands–flagged Everest from Bandar Abbas in Iran, despite U.N. sanctions that prohibit Iran from selling arms. The contraband was hidden behind marble slabs and fiberglass. The manifest showed that the recipient was "to order." In short, according to a report, "the ship's owners, operators, and officers had no knowledge or reason for suspicion regarding the container."

So... the potential for using containerized freight for terrorism is... what?


Remember before 9/11 when airport security was sane? The biggest thing they kept drilling in was "don't leave your bags unattended," followed by "don't carry items for persons unknown to you."

Abstraction from consequences allowed for a large number of things to make it aboard planes. With minimal risk of getting caught, you could try once a week to put a bomb on a plane until you managed to succeed.

Shipping containers are effectively the same threat. Due to the globalization and efficiency of trade, I can ship a box full of anything I want anywhere in the world, and the only way anyone will know the contents is if I declare it.

Container cargo is how a ton of bad stuff gets into the country. Not just terrorist stuff, but drugs (and we aren't talking mexican skunk weed here), military grade arms, sex slaves, counterfeit nikes, etc. It is pretty much the wild west.

Something should be done to verify and inspect cargo. A container full of 20 Filipino girls bound for massage parlors should be found and stopped. There is no realistic way of catching more than 1% of illicit shipments without serious investment or impacting the volume of trade that can take place. The best efforts than can be made, unfortunately, are by swinging the terrorism hammer to get dollars.


How about you make things that are illegal - legal. Then you don't need to inspect anything. And for those things that are truly horrible - like sex slavery - stop fighting the symptom. Shipping companies are not the root cause of sex slavery. There is a demand for such things. Eliminate the demand and there will be no sex slaves.


Last I checked, food was legal, and yet we have food inspectors (though hardly enough) to check for things like excess levels of e. coli and other charmers, horsemeat crossdressing as beef, melamine playing in dairy products, and the like.

Simply legalizing something doesn't end the need for inspections.

And there's still the matter of stuff you really don't want and cannot reasonably legalize (or expect legalization to magically make all problems go away) which will require inspection. You know, so that your now-legal melamine-tainted, e. coli infested, beef-that's-really-horsemeat isn't, say, someone's science-project hydrogen bomb or smallpox aerosol.


This is gently baffling. Very few people leave their home country with the intent of becoming a sex slave. They pay some money to leave their country and enter another. When they arrive they're told they still owe $X, and need to pay it off. One way to pay is to become a sex worker. Their legal documents are taken from them. They are told that the police will lock them in prison or deport them if they try to get help.

Domestic sex workers rarely turn to sex work out of free choice. They've made bad decisions, and now they're addicted to drugs, or in deep debt, and sex work is the only way they can get money.

The few people who enjoy sex work are not enough to satiate demand for sex workers, especially if it's legal.

It's nice to think that a bit of sex work is one way that people could chose to put themselves through college and then move on to much better work, but unfortunately that's nothing like the truth of sex work.


Their legal documents are taken from them. They are told that the police will lock them in prison or deport them if they try to get help.

You are down to the very root of the problem here; the logical thing to do would be to make sure these threats are not credible, but it seems you are advocating exactly the opposite.

Domestic sex workers rarely turn to sex work out of free choice. They've made bad decisions, and now they're addicted to drugs, or in deep debt, and sex work is the only way they can get money.

There are many (most?) professions that people choose primarily because that is the best way for them to make money. Why take exception with sex work?

The few people who enjoy sex work are not enough to satiate demand for sex workers, especially if it's legal.

What does this even mean? Normally, demand and supply are made equal through price, and this is exactly how it happens in sex work, just as in any other.

It's nice to think that a bit of sex work is one way that people could chose to put themselves through college and then move on to much better work, but unfortunately that's nothing like the truth of sex work.

s/sex work/any other manual job/, and your statement would still stand true, except it often provides a much higher hourly rate for the worker, compared to most alternatives.

Fundamentally, this is nothing but covert moralizing, implicitly arguing that if other people make choices that you personally consider repugnant, they are somehow objectively wrong and need to be re-educated to see the error of their ways.


> the logical thing to do would be to make sure these threats are not credible, but it seems you are advocating exactly the opposite.

The threats are already not credible. A trafficked sex worker going to police is not going to be arrested; the person controlling a trafficked sex worker is in far more legal trouble.

> Why take exception with sex work?

Because it's not a free choice. An addict cannot freely chose sex work.

> Fundamentally, this is nothing but covert moralizing, implicitly arguing that if other people make choices that you personally consider repugnant, they are somehow objectively wrong and need to be re-educated to see the error of their ways.

You need to speak to sex workers and ex-sex workers and hear the very strong trauma they experience. I've said (although not in this thread) that I have no problem with people selling or buying sex. Someone paying for sex, and someone providing that service is in theory a normal transaction. In practice, very few people want to be paid to provide sex services, and the number of people forced to work in the sex trade is worrying.

Perhaps I've been a bit confusing with terminology. By sex work I tend to mean prostitution, rather than camming etc. (Although the lighter end has some distressing problems too.) And I'm in the UK, where it's legal to pay for sex and to receive money for sex, but we have lots of trafficked people working in the industry.


> The few people who enjoy sex work are not enough to satiate demand for sex workers, especially if it's legal.

It doesn't make sense to say demand is strictly greater than supply.[1] Supply and demand aren't fixed quantities, they're each mediated by price.

There's some price at which the two achieve equilibrium.

That price might be sufficiently high that there would still remain a black market retaining much of the social ills associated with the current illegal practice.

But this is a bit of a tangent. Sorry for the econ nitpick, carry on.

[1] Well, in a sense demand is always greater than supply among useful goods and services. It's true of sex, but also of socks, nannies, and cocoa. It's called "scarcity."


> Eliminate the demand

And how exactly do you propose to do that?


Legalize and regulate prostitution, boom you've eliminated the market for sex slavery, and maybe you can provide a safe work environment for men and women who are going to be sex workers regardless of legality.


I'm not sure that works. Berry-picking is legal in scandinavia, but each summer people are still brought in by the truckload from eastern europe by scamsters and then forced to work off their debt.


I am from east europe and i know a lot of people who worked that way in Norway and Sweden, no scam reported, and in better years (10-12 years ago) a summer spent by a couple working that way earned them an apartment. Quite opposite, they were surprised with good living conditions and generous pay. While employment was most probably illegal, they were on 3-month tourist visas.


And what's the legality of employing migrant workers?


It is generally legal, and welcomed for seasonal work in particular. Which makes it easy to avoid scrutiny for those who wants to exploit someone, as the visible part of their activity is entirely legal.


I'll admit I don't know much (anything) about labor laws in Sweden. From what I've read legal migrant workers are afforded access to the welfare state and rights such as collective bargaining. Which is awesome, but what's the enforcement like for companies who hire undocumented workers?

From what I've read so far enforcement seems to be aimed at deporting workers and not punishing the companies. Seems like a case for punishing the perpetrators and not the victims.


As I understand it, because of the European Union’s rules about free movement of labor any EU citizen can work everywhere in the EU legally with very little paperwork. Legal migrants are given full access to the welfare state from their first hour of work.

Most migrant workers are therefore from Eastern Europe, and can work there legally.

I don't know about Sweden, but here in Norway enforcement is pretty strict. Industries that the government considers especially prone to illegal activities, like construction, are inspected regularly. There is also a system of forced tariff (minimum pay, requirement to pay extra for overtime, and other standards), and companies can be hold collective responsible for what their subcontractors does. Employers that don't follow the rules face large fines, confiscations and prison. Every worker has the right to collective bargaining.

Illegal immigrants can of course be deported, but because there is no place to incarcerate them until they can be sent home, the government mainly focus on deporting criminals and thus with a known home address, not scooping up illegals where their may work. However we have a new government that may make changes to this now.


I'm afraid you've missed the point.

Berry picking is legal, but employing workers from eastern Europe is not.

Provide a legal channel by which cheap labor can be imported, and the scamsters will be out of business.


If that's the case, then why does sex trafficking happen so much in the Netherlands? [0]

[0] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_the_Netherlands...


Maybe that's why sex traffickers are reported so often in the Netherlands. The girl will tell a client or coworker, who'll tell the police. Or they'll go directly to the police, if they can.

Where it's illegal, no-one talks to the police.


Probably because they have a strong safety net and there's not enough Dutch men and women willing to engage in sex work to meet demand.

I would also imagine the demand is much higher since it is illegal in surrounding areas and most of the world. If that weren't they case I'm guessing demand would be much lower. It's a problem that can't be solved in isolation.


Not trying to strawman you, but are you arguing that if we removed the social safety net, more people would have to engage in sex work out of necessity?



Do you have any evidence whatsoever to support this idea?


The main question is - why coerced prostitutes are not going to law enforcement? What prevents them? Will they be deported for that?

This problem probably can be solved with technology - make Airbnb for amateur sex workers :)


<blockquote>The main question is - why coerced prostitutes are not going to law enforcement? What prevents them? Will they be deported for that?</blockquote>

They or the people they left behind to report the people running them will be beaten and possibly killed. People who are illegally importing sex workers aren't nice people who will just ask them not to go to the police again.


> Legalize and regulate prostitution, boom you've eliminated the market for sex slavery

Not all sex slaves are legal age adults who would compete against a legal prostitution environment.


Yeah that's true. But if you legalize prostitution the majority of the people with fairly normal tastes in sex would find willing "vendors." That would free police up from fighting "normal" prostitution and enable them to put more energy into finding and stopping the really naughty stuff like child slavery and the like which are real, but niche problems.


Drug dealers are typically willing to sell their wares to children. This makes sense, since what they are doing is illegal anyway.

If we legalize a drug (say, alcohol), then the people who sell that particular drug will typically no longer be willing to sell that drug to minors, since minors represent a very small percentage of the market and (with the legalization of the larger segment of the market) carry a much greater risk that cannot be justified by the marginal profit gains they could see.

This is why it is easier for a teenager to buy marijuana than alcohol in significant quantities.


> If we legalize a drug (say, alcohol), then the people who sell that particular drug will typically no longer be willing to sell that drug to minors,

The years of campaigning and changing laws to prevent shops (and pubs) from selling alcohol and cigarettes to children show that actually they don't give a fuck who they sell to so long as they sell. Marketing tobacco products with youth friendly cartoon camels or with names like Skol Bandits is sleazy. Big tobacco had no problem targeting children even though they knew it was illegal.

{As always in these discussions: I am strongly in favour of legalising all drugs}


The laws need to be enforced to work, I would never suggest otherwise.

The fact is when the laws are enforced it becomes difficult for teenagers to buy liquor themselves and, absent people who make a living selling liquor illegally (these people still exist in some remote parts of Alaska, and in some very poor areas of the rural Appalachians, but not really elsewhere), teenagers will have a difficult time finding a reliable source of alcohol (Joe's older brother who goes to college may pick you up a keg once in a while for your parties, but Joe's older brother has better things to do than buy teenagers booze all the time, even if he's gouging them)

On the other hand, reliable sources of pot is easy for a teenager. The people who are willing to illegally sell pot to teenagers are already selling to a larger more affluent audience illegally as well (adults).

Basically:

  Selling alcohol to everybody illegally:
    Laws are enforced:                       profitable, and risky.
    Laws are not enforced:                   profitable.
  Selling alcohol to only adults legally:    profitable.
  Selling alcohol to only minors illegally:  
    Laws are enforced:                       not profitable, and risky.
    Laws are not enforced:                   not profitable.
  Selling alcohol to adults legally and minors illegally:
    Laws are enforced:                       profitable, but needlessly risky
                                               for what you gain.
    Laws are not enforced:                   profitable.
Given that you want to restrict childrens' access to substances, you want to be in a position where no adult considers it worth it to sell to children. The best place for that is "selling to adults is legal, selling to children is illegal, the law is enforced".


How is selling a same product, to already willing to buy customer, is not profittable?

Increasing the sales by several percent without any extra expenses is certainly profitable.

To sell alcohol to kids, they do not need to invent new 'kid friendly bottles' and dump millions into 'kid oriented marketing', they are already here to buy, just sell the damn same product and here is the profit.


However, for some reason we don't see hordes of underage slaves manning McDonald's, do we? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that burger joints are legal, and hence violating labor laws has real consequences for their proprietors, and sex work isn't, so labor laws have no relevance?


Yes you do, and illegal immigrant workers and illegal immigrant underage workers. [1][2][3][4]

Legalizing prostitution was floated as an instant fix for the human trafficking problem, when it...by very simple example...isn't.

1 - http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-07-13/news/bs-md-co-mc...

2 - http://denver.cbslocal.com/2012/12/04/denver-mcdonalds-franc...

3 - http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/aug/01/childprotection.so...

4 - http://www.examiner.com/article/illegal-aliens-caught-workin...


Am I missing something? Everyone of those links is about someone being caught and punished for breaking labor laws.

Yes it still happens, but when it happens there's a mechanism to punish the perpetrators and help the victims (In most of the articles you linked the employee's received their back wages).

Why should sex workers not enjoy the same protection?


So two questions:

1) Do you think that the few times McD's was caught with underage or otherwise illegal workers represents all the times that underage and or otherwise illegal workers are used (that enforcement of the law is 100% effective)? My obvious assertion is that it probably wouldn't be reported in the news if it wasn't caught and that enforcement of labor laws is less than 100% effective.

2) Do you think we should have a legal framework that allows for underage sex workers? Because we already have one that doesn't allow for such an occupation by minors yet it's still a shockingly common part of human sex slave trafficking. It also caters to a type of client who wouldn't necessarily be affected by a prostitution legalization regime.


> Do you think we should have a legal framework that allows for underage sex workers?

No, I think that we should have a legal framework which protects sex workers (including those whom it will remain illegal to employ as such, such as those who are underage ), and creates a clear, visible, and effective (compared to the current regime) protection for abused sex workers (including, but not limited to, those who it is illegal to employ as sex workers because of their age) by (among other means) making it clear that legal punishments will be directed at the abusers, not the abused (and not any party in the fully consensual, non-abusive interactions), which creates much stronger incentives for everyone but the abusers to report the abusers, rather than creating an apparent alignment of interests between the abusers and other market participants.

By making sex work illegal rather than only the abusive employment of sex workers, you reduce the marginal cost of abuses within sex work, and create an apparent alignment of interest between the abused and other market participants, on the one hand, and the abusers, on the other, since revealing the abusers exposes the abused and other market participants to punishment.


1) Do you think there would be less illegal labor practices if there weren't labor laws in place and an enforcement mechanism?

2) I'm not arguing for allowing underage sex workers. However, age of consent is very much a cultural issue, and I'm not comfortable insisting on a certain age, that should be up to each country.

I'm arguing that legalizing sex work would provide those who consent to do it with a modicum of safety, and instead of being a coercive act it can be a route to empowerment. Furthermore, I'm arguing that legalizing sex work would reduce the demand for illegally trafficked sex workers. Lastly, I'm arguing that providing a strong social safety net would reduce the number of people who engage in sex work out of necessity. The sad fact is that a lot of child sex workers are brought into the sex trade by their families because it is sometimes the only means of survival.

Prostitution being illegal only punishes the victim. Trafficking sex slaves, using sex workers who don't/can't consent, and any other practices that harm sex workers should be illegal and heavily enforced.


I think we're actually in violent agreement.


I would argue, any regulation and taxation actually add to the price, making slave labor an attractive option.


> The best efforts than can be made, unfortunately, are by swinging the terrorism hammer to get dollars.

You seem to be making a virtue of terrorism pimping. One of the biggest problems we have is the oversized security state. You are advocating for more, achieved by the same means that got us to where we are.


I'm on the fence about this issue. The problem is that this is often the only way to get a bureaucracy to do anything, ever.

For example...

I am skeptical of manmade global warming alarmism. Not that I don't think humans might be altering the climate, but I think it's probably low on the list of real environmental and ecological risks we face. Nevertheless I think it's good to "pimp" it. There are so many other reasons we need to move off fossil fuels sooner rather than later, anything that causes us to do this is almost by definition good.


So... the potential for using containerized freight for terrorism is... what?

Delivery vector, WMD in particular. Boat drives under Golden Gate and goes Boom. Captain never knows.


In addition to the direct harm of a bomb, the political reaction - tightening dock security to be like post-9-11 airports - could have massive economic impact.


Another little known fact:

Cargo ships also burn a lot of very nasty bunker fuel. The ships going through the panama canal have carbon emissions per year that rival those of all motored vehicles in the US combined (800 metric tons vs 1100 metric tons). Each ship burns 200 to 400 tonnes of fuel per day (worth $40K-$80K)


"Bunker" isn't a type of fuel, thats just what it is called when store aboard a ship (the "bunker" is where coal used to be stored). Large ships burn about a dozen different types of fuel oils.

Cargo ships are also the most carbon efficient means of transporting goods. Better than trucks, trains, and planes.


> Cargo ships are also the most carbon efficient means of transporting goods. Better than trucks, trains, and planes.

A lot of cargo companies have been running the ships at half speed to conserve fuel. With margins so slim and some cargos not on a tight schedule, it works fairly well. This also reduces emissions.


>Cargo ships are also the most carbon efficient means of transporting goods.

Only due to their scale, there seem to be very little 'carbon reducing' technologies employed in the shipping trade.

I don't know why some sort of modern Sail power hasn't been looked at. If you're sailing with the wind why would you not save "$40 - $80k" a day?

Of wind turbines for that matter, as far as I know, most ships still derive electricity from diesel generators. Why not wind or solar?


Ship engines produce a lot of power. Around 75MW.

The size of the sails / solar / wind turbine to replace this would be...? You get the idea.

As for carbon reduction, the engines already run at ~50% efficiency so there is little waste. The amount of carbon produced is the reality of pushing such a huge weight through the water.


Not sure why I was down-voted on this.

I should have made it clearer in my post but I wasn't suggesting replacing diesel engines with Sail power, just augmenting it in the same manner as the SkySails (see response from jk4930 and markdown).

I also don't see why covering the deck in solar panels, or installing some form of wind turbine, wouldn't go some way to reducing the demand from diesel power generators.


There are a lot of people looking at fuel efficiency as well as carbon/sox/nox emmissions. For the companies running ships, the more efficient the plant is, the more money they save on fuel. About ten years ago we did a rough back of the envelope calculation in one of my engineering classes when I asked a similar question. The extra weight of the solar panels would negate any small benefit they would provide plus the cost of maintaining extra equipment. A lot modern ships run a shaft generator which uses the power from the shaft turning the propellor to turn an alternator to make electricity. When the ship slows down at the end of the trip, they go back to running smaller 'port' generators.


Covering the decks in panels is going to be a non-starter for containerships where a large percentage of the cargo is carried on deck. Even for tankers with (relatively) open decks, that's not going to work to hot because of the significant amount of piping that crisscrosses the decks.

In either case, I don't think you understand just how brutal the maritime environment is. A typical oceangoing ship has steel panels at main deck level dented in from the impact of the sea. I don't think solar panels are going to hold up so well.

Unless you can find a way for that wind turbine to both generate electricity and work as a "sail" so it propels the ship, it is just going to add drag that is counterproductive to the problem you're trying to solve.


There's a solar-powered research ship, the Tûranor. It is entirely decked over in solar cells, and spreads "wings" to extend its surface area. The hull design is very efficient. The ship averages 5 knots.

Oceangoing cargo ships maintain speeds of up to about 25 knots. In recent years, many have practiced "slow steaming", cutting their speed in half to save 30% of their fuel needs (and doubling transit times).

By contrast, sailing ships averaged around 8 knots -- though one of the characteristics of sail is that your speed is much less predictable (and hence, shipping schedules). The ships were also much smaller than today's freighters, for various reasons. While it's possible that we could build larger sail-powered or hybrid ships today, they'd probably still be much smaller than fossil-fuel driven ships. Other alternatives include biofuels (most likely pelletized wood and/or cellulose).

I wrote about this a few months back on G+: Is solar-powered ocean freight in your future? Wait for it .... https://plus.google.com/104092656004159577193/posts/eRygnNMp...


Canals were one of the original killers of sails and some of the proposals don't solve that problem (the hybrid approaches do). The modern sail will probably make a reappearance, but the current problem is the margins and capacity are such that not a lot of new generation ships are being built. I would expect that once you see car carriers adopt new technology the the rest will follow.


> Only due to their scale, there seem to be very little 'carbon reducing' technologies employed in the shipping trade.

Not true. Take a look at what Maersk does: http://www.maersk.com/sustainability/environmentclimate/page...


>sort of modern Sail power

http://www.skysails.info/english/



i guess the explanation is quite simply: not enough power.


I didnt make a judgement, just pointing out a fact. That they are the most carbon efficient doesnt mean it couldnt be improved/replaced in the future however.

I just find it funny how politicians in my country try to save carbon emissions by enforcing a speed limit on highways or only let newer cars into the city areas...it just doesnt make no difference at all on a global scale.


You did make a judgement: You compared the entire output of global shipping's carbon costs to just one (admittedly car-loving and industrious) country's intracontinental transport costs. You thought that this was somehow relevant and interesting to the conversation. You phrased it in such a way to make it out as a travesty. Yes, you made judgement.


those are just the vessels travelling through the panama canal, definitely not "the entire output of global shipping's carbon costs".


It's still widely open to misinterpretation. Does it refer to the carbon emissions while they pass through the canal, or is it the total carbon emissions of all ships that have passed through the canal? Is the statistic just showing that lots of ships go through the canal in a year?


Specifically, the unqualified judgement you made was "nasty" in reference to "bunker fuel".


Well to be fair, regardless of its suitability as a long term viable fuel source, it is nasty stuff. It's basically tar. It has to be kept heated to about 70c less it become to viscous and can't be pumped anymore and heated even more before being used in the engine.



"That they are the most carbon efficient doesnt mean it couldnt be improved/replaced in the future however."

The fact that transporting things by sea is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more efficient means that it is the last thing to improve-replace.

"I just find it funny how politicians in my country try to save carbon emissions by enforcing a speed limit on highways or only let newer cars into the city areas...it just doesnt make no difference at all on a global scale."

Politicians use to be ignorant of science. Having said that, cars and trucks are the biggest polluter in the world.

I couldn't care less about "carbon emissions", but combustion particles, specially diesel from big truck, are really nasty for the environment.


Also, large cargo ships are one of the easier things to run on nuclear power. Take the Nimitz class carriers, for example, basically unlimited range and a 20 year refuelling cycle. Political palaver aside. Which makes shipping a relatively easy thing to fix if we ever perceive the need. (Though I'm not convinced several thousand nuclear reactors at sea is a brilliant idea). Edit: spelling and grammar.


Driving slower improves fuel efficiency (to a point). Newer engines designs, improved fuels, and engine emission control have had a huge impact on vehicle exhaust emissions and CO2 output per distance.


it IS definately very nasty stuff they burn: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1229857/How-1...


"Little known" or "Made up on the spot"?

The US motor vehicle fleet consumed 174,930 million gallons of fuel in 2006 according to http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004727.html

There are 308 gallons of fuel to the ton, in crude oil (somewhat different from gasoline, but not sufficiently different to care about)

That's 567 million tons of fuel consumed by the US motor vehicle fleet per year.

There are 370 million tons of bunker fuel consumed by the entire global shipping industry per year according to http://www.futuresmag.com/2012/10/15/cleartrade-exchange-to-...

Only a tiny fraction of that industry is presently passing through the Panama Canal.

Headlines: "Global Merchant Shipping Tonnage to Reach 12.4 Billion Metric Tons by 2015, According to New Report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. "

"...canal traffic in 2009 reached 299.1 million tons of shipping."

The canal is much, much shorter than an average oceanic merchant shipping route, so an even lower fraction of ton-miles is spent on shipping through the canal. Transit times are on the order of 1 day (compare with a typical trip on a vessel slow steaming at 18 knots), so even if you assume they're running their engines full-blast inside the canal (they're not), this is still a tiny fraction of the above sum.

Carbon emissions, in case you weren't paying attention in chemistry class, are normally about 85% of the mass of complex hydrocarbons (nC=12n, n2H=2n, +2H=2), so these quantities are almost directly comparable. Bunker fuel is indeed nasty stuff, but their carbon emissions are not particularly unique (nor are any hydrocarbon fuel's) - they do have more subtle sulfur and particulate air pollution.


Well i should have included some of my notes when posting this, as people were even arguing about the fact that the fuel is nasty, which it clearly is. Anyway:

US carbon emissions from 2008 for Motor Gasoline: 1.135 BMT[1]

Total worldwide shipping emissions: 1.12 BMT [2]

And yes, its some nasty stuff they burn [3]

[1] http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/carbon.html#transportatio... [2]http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/feb/13/climatech... [3]http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1229857/How-1...


1) It seems we have this problem: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2008/03/25/202471/the-bigge...

Carbon is easier here because it's a lot closer to 'tons of fuel burned'.

2) Aside from that, 'motor gasoline' does not count diesel fuel, which contributes to motor vehicle emissions through our well-developed trucking industry.

3) In re: [3], they're speaking of some very specific types of pollution. Pollution we systematically eliminated in automobiles decades ago and in trucks recently by improving the refinery process & selecting cleaner oil deposits to produce low-sulfur fuel, implementing catalytic converters and combustion feedback sensors, and just generally getting smart about how we burn things. Low-hanging fruit. We could have fixed this in bunker fuel if we'd wanted to by now.

"Carbon pollution" is not like the other types of pollution. It's not a health issue, and it's not at all avoidable if you're using fossil fuels. If thermal efficiency is already up there, there is no reasonable way to reduce it in any sense, other than 'burning less'. It is also basically the same amount of carbon emissions per thermal output from coal to bunker fuel to gasoline (with slight improvements for natural gas). There's no 'cleaning things up'.

4) So... What on Earth were your original numbers supposed to indicate? Where did they come from?


Well what can you do, use jet grade fuel on them? Hell, even using "normal" diesel fuel would increase the prices for everyone else, plus the ships' engines don't handle it well anyway...


Nuclear reactors. It's good enough for the military, and some icebreakers.


The military and icebreakers have requirements not shared by your average commercial ship that make nuclear reactors worthwhile.


I believe everyone would go apeshit if cargo ships (with their admittedly bad security) started using nuclear reactors...


Wouldn't be allowed in New Zealand (anywhere else?)


I worked for a start-up for quite a while working on this problem. We had a system for CTPAT enrollment of a supply chain, but that proved to go nowhere pretty quickly.

We ended up being part of the Advance Trade Data Initiative (ATDI) where we received a feed of data corresponding to Bills of Lading, Advance Shipment Notices, Stow Plans, Container Updates, etc. We were able to take that feed of data and marry it to other open source intelligence (watch lists for crew, commodities used to cover contraband, historical location data for vessels, historical data on containers, etc) and a rules engine.

The result was a risk score for each shipment, and an aggregate score for each conveyance.

Customs officials then used this data to target their scanning/inspection, instead of trying to do 100% of all cargo.

Not only can this approach be used for security concerns, but also for combating smuggling of legal items by importers trying to circumvent tariffs and taxes.

Hey, here is a screenshot from their website: http://www.greenlinesystems.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/m...

Here is a marketing blurb on the product: http://www.greenlinesystems.com/cargo-risk-targeting/


Might be a good idea to stop doing things which cause people to send you bombs.


Doing what violent people want you to do so they stop hurting you is usually not the optimal solution.


Where do drones fit into this theory? Using the crudest possible measure - deaths - it's hard not to see the US as the "violent people" you describe. It has become a cycle, how do you suggest breaking it?


I didn't describe anybody in particular. It's interesting to see the way various people here are assigning my statement one way or the other. All I said is that doing the thing that a violence maker wants you to do in exchange for making it stop is usually not the best outcome. Other solutions are exercises left up to the reader.

But it's very context specific:

When I was a school boy, if a bully threatened me with violence and I responded violently to him, he'd probably stop. The better solution would be to figure out why he was a violent bully and solve it there.

As an adult, if somebody told me to give them my wallet at the point of a gun, I'd probably give them my wallet. But the better solution is to figure out what drove some segment of the population to think that mugging people was a good idea and deal with it there - poverty, substance abuse, etc.

People don't become suicide bombers or launch rockets off of drones for no reason, there's always a good reason to do these things even if it's not always obvious. But it may not be the best way to deal with those reasons. In fact, I'd say that it has historically been shown to not be a very good way to deal with those issues.


So is your assumption that drone strikes are deliberately targeting the innocent as a way to inspire terror? If not, isn't it obvious what the difference is?


Do you honestly expect anyone under the age of 25 to understand the geopolitics of having their family, friends, etc being killed and to realize that they were actually "bad" people and that the "proper" reaction is to simply accept the "punishment" of a drone strike?


The difference is obvious to you and me and western folks. But to the average brown kid on the ground seeing his village get blown to pieces, he aint gonna know and he'll be the one sending the bombs when he's a bigger boy. Why not use the drones and send targeted dinners to his table and he'll be a likely friend to the US in the future.


It is causing terror resentment and hatred. I don't think this is the aim though, but I actually don't know. Are aims of the drone controllers know? The linked PDF doesn't doesn't go into this area, but is very interesting. http://web.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/h...


Funny, that's exactly what the brown people said.


What goes around, comes around.


http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/10/ff_radioactivecargo/

Related article previously submitted on HN, about what happens when one of these containers has radioactive cargo.


Does this remind anyone of the Guild navigator ships in Dune?


The section on arms shipments to Nigeria reminded me strongly of the film "Lord of War," where Nic Cage's character notes that his favorite cover for his arms is the combination of tropical heat and old potatoes.


If the Internet should be neutral, why should this peer-to-peer container-switched network be different?


Well for one, you can't really email someone a nuclear bomb or chemical weapon. The most you could do over the Internet is detonate an already-existing bomb (either a real bomb or blow something up Stuxnet-style).


Containerized freight has never been used in an act of terrorism. For that to be a concern, it would first have to be plausible for terrorists to get a nuclear bomb and have the capability to set it off. Then, using a shipping container would have to come to the top of the list of how to deliver it. Neither is now plausible.




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