“Geography” A New book by Danny Dorling and Carl Lee
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On 25 January 2015 the MSC Oscar, a Panamanian flagged ship laden with goods, set sail from the port of Dalian in China. Sailing southwest, it picked up yet more cargo at one of the world’s largest ports on the southern tip of Malaysia, Tanjung Pelepas. Next, cruising at a sedate 26 kilometres an hour, it passed through the Malacca Strait, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar. The entire voyage to Europe took just over five weeks. On 3 March 2015, when it arrived in Europe at Rotterdam’s huge container port, the ship made the news. It was nearly 400 metres long, 60 metres wide and 73 metres high. It could transport 13.8 million solar panels or 1.15 million washing machines or 39,000 cars. The MSC Oscar was the world’s largest container ship.
It almost certainly isn’t the largest container ship today. When the MSC Oscar was launched keels were already being laid down in the shipyards of South Korea for ships that will by now have surpassed even her 19,224-container load. A container is often referred to as a 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU), a ‘unit’ designed to be hauled by a lorry. Try to imagine almost 20,000 lorries travelling end to end. Even closely packed in a traffic jam, the cavalcade would be over 160 kilometres (about 100 miles) long. The MSC Oscar is the physical embodiment of a globalised world. Its much heralded fuel efficiency and relatively slow cruising speed are signs of recent greater concern over the environmental impacts and costs of transporting the multitudinous manufacturing bounty of China and its neighbours for the 12,569 nautical miles that separate Dalian from Rotterdam. …
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