No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned… a man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company… Samuel Johnson


The Colombo Bay New York : Simon & Schuster, c 2004      Richard Pollak Container ships, Colombo Bay (Ship) Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 260 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG   

In the face of killer storms, fires, piracy, and terrorism, container ships the length of city blocks and more than a dozen stories high carry 90 percent of the worlds trade. This is an account of one ship’s voyage and of the sailors who daily risk their lives to deliver six million containers a year to United States ports alone. Inside these twenty-foot and forty-foot steel boxes are the thousands of imports – from chinos and Game Boys to garlic and frozen shrimp – without which North America’s consumer society would collapse.

To explore this little-known and dangerous universe of modern seafaring, Pollak joined the Colombo Bay in Hong Kong and over the next five weeks sailed with her and her 3,500 containers across the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic. En route, this mammoth vessel called at Singapore and Colombo, passed through the Suez Canal (toll: $250,000), then put in at Malta and Halifax before tangling with Hurricane Karen on the two-day run to New York. Here is the story of the ship’s twenty-four-man company; of the British captain, Peter Davies, a veteran of four decades at sea; of Federico Castrojas, who like the rest of the Filipino crew must daily confront the loneliness of being away from his family for nine months at a stretch; of Simon Westall, the twenty-one-year-old third mate, who reveals what it is in the world of the merchant service for the young and untried.

It is a world where pirates in the Malacca Strait sneak up behind ships at night in fast power boats, then clamber aboard and either rob the unarmed sailors at gunpoint and escape into the dark or throw the crew into the sea and hijack the ship, plundering her cargo and sometimes repainting her and setting out to do business under another name and flag. It is a world where families desperate to get to the United States or Europe pay thousands of dollars to the Chinese Snakeheads and other criminal gangs, who secrete these wretched migrants in stifling containers; after a week or more at sea these stowaways arrive in the Promised Land either starving or dead.

About these ads

Comments Off

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments are closed.