Ninety Percent of Everything by Rose George

Fascinating. Shines light on an invisible but vital industry. The author got to travel on a container ship from the UK to Singapore, and she uses each stage of the journey to dive into the history and current existence of merchant sailors, from their food to how they deal with pirates to the convoluted shell companies that own and run the ships.

Extremely well-written, and made my next visit to the Maritime Museum much more interesting, because I understood more of the context in which those ships were operating.

Three of the very many things I learned:

  • Merchant sailors are often cheated out of pay by their bosses. In 2010 alone, the International Transport Workers Federation managed to recover $30 million in back pay that was owed to seafarers.
  • The Suez Canal is only wide enough for one-way traffic, so they have to stagger the ships going through in convoys each way
  • Merchant sailors captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean are held for 250 days (!) on average