Ship’s Log: Day Twelve (Melbourne to Tilbury)

Twelfth day of the voyage; fifth day of the Pacific crossing.

Some theoretical calculations concerning the basic stuff of capitalist trade. The maximum load for this ship is 28,000 tonnes, made up of no more than 1100 containers, some full, some empty. According to Marisec, as of October 2010, the world has about 44,000 ships that carry freight (and 6600 passenger ships). Given that this is a medium-sized ship, we can multiply the amount this ship carries with the number of ships and come up with a reasonable idea of the amount of material goods shipped around the world with each voyage: 1,232,000,000 tonnes. Mind you, that is not per year, but per voyage.

If we want to find a rough calculation of how much freight is moved per year, we may take the number of containers in the world (which ship 90% of all cargo), take their average capacity at 27,500 kg (not including the 4000 kg of the container itself) and multiply by the number of trips made each year for each container. These figures come from 2005.

Number of containers:  18,000,000

Average capacity:  27,500 kg

Subtotal:  495,000,000 tonnes

Number of container trips per year:  200,000,000

Subtotal:  99,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes per year

Increase to 100% (from 90%):  110,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes per year.

Makes one wonder about the supposed financialisation of the market, in which the prime source of profit is non-material. As the engineer on an earlier ship said: people shift a lot of crap.


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