In her TED talk, Rose George goes in depth about the shipping industry and current challenges that the industry faces; one of these challenges being ship hijacking by pirates. Many believe that shipping is an obsolete industry that is old-fashioned. However, Rose George explains otherwise, rather explaining that the world now relies on shipping more than ever.

Public Blindness

As noted by Rose George in her TED talk, the first sealord of the British admiralty coined the term “Sea Blindness” when describing the state of many members of Western nations. Many have not heard of the shipping company, Maersk, which has $60.2 billion revenues that rival the software giant, Microsoft.

When embarking on her own journey aboard the Maersk Kendall, George explains the many lessons that she learned while on the 5 week voyage. One key element that she witnessed was the fast and relentless pace of the industry; limited time at port, no internet, and long hours of work for the seafarers. Additionally, she realized the change in the crew’s environment when passing through pirate waters; the additonal security measured that the crew needed to take in order to avoid kidnappings. Surprisingly, through the charcoal-black fumes that leave the ships’ stacks, shipping is the most environmentally-friendly method of goods-transport. This is very alarming due to the fact that shipping companies often aim to use the cheapest fuel possible, using bunker fuel as a fuel source. However, many measures are now being taken to reduce the shipping industry’s carbon footprint even further. Following her visit to Cape Cod during the voyage, George also explains the shipping industry’s impact on marine life.

The Statistics

According to Rose George, 90% of the world’s trade is brought on by shipping. With around 100,000 shipping vessels operating, shipping quantity has more than quadrupled since 1970. When compared to the aviation industry, the shipping industry emits about one-thousandth of aviation’s carbon emissions per term per mile. Compared to the trucking industry, the shipping industry emits one-tenth of trucking’s carbon emissions per term per mile. Compared to the carbon emissions of countries, the shipping industry emits about as much carbon as Germany. The carbon emissions from the 15 largest ships is estimated to be equivalent to the carbon emissions of every car in the world.


Rose George’s TED talk is aimed at informing the public of many of the shipping industry’s challenges. In the talk, George gives statistics and explains the need for legislation and rules that will advance the shipping industry. The world deeply relies on the shipping industry, and any improvements to the industry will impact the world positively.