Book Review of Ninety Percent of Everything

If you’re interested in learning more about the world of shipping, Rose George’s book Ninety Percent of Everything is a great literary introduction into the world of freight shipping.

George provides insight into the often overlooked world of freight shipping. We all live in a world where we need to buy products that are then shipped. If we don’t produce the products here, they have to be transported somehow.

Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Its importance is paramount but often invisible. In Ninety Percent of Everything, George travels with a Maersk container ship and learns all about the various aspects of this important process.

While sailing from Rotterdam to Singapore, she helps an anti-piracy task force, investigates endangered whales, and learns about the dangers and human elements of the industry.

There are even a few nods to situations impacting recent events, including the Suez canal blockage. George writes:

“Suez is exhausting. The captain stays particularly alert. He would anyway, but once, a pilot ran the ship aground in the call and he has never forgotten it. By the time the captain realized they were going to run aground, they were beached on sand…Our passage feels so stately and secure through the canal. It seems mishap is impossible.”

Nearly all goods sold worldwide are transported by container ships. At any given time, these ships are passing through the Straits of Malacca, the Suez Canal, and other channels kept in constant motion by an expanding global economy.

One of George’s main points is that freight shipping remains largely behind the scenes, leading to a byzantine system of concealed ownership structures, convoluted regulations, a labor force largely drawn from developing nations, and inhumane working conditions.

George’s book is an introduction into the shipping world as she experiences first hand a tiny sample of life on a ship and looks into the lives of some of the characters she meets along the way.

Her account includes a bit about piracy, working conditions, economic inequality, environmental issues, and everyday life on a ship. Tackling an industry as large and complex as shipping is challenging, but she does a good job!

If you are interested in the shipping industry, you’ll enjoy the book. If you want to learn more about shipping and logistics, contact Customodal!