Permacrisis: Shipping

If we want to look at human activity accelerated to the point of destruction, let’s look at the tragedy of the Mediterranean.

Aerial view of a Cosco cargo ship moored between two piers covered with colorful shipping containers.


In Greece’s largest port of Piraeus, China is the boss

Kaki Bali

10/30/2022October 30, 2022

Since 2016, the Chinese shipping company Cosco has been the majority stakeholder in the port of Piraeus. This means a foreign power controls Greece’s main port.

In Germany, a heated debate has been raging about the Chinese state shipping company Cosco buying a minority stake in a container terminal at the port of Hamburg.

Greece, however, seems to have no such concerns. Since 2011, under pressure from both the debt crisis and the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), the Greek government has sold almost all of the country’s important ports and airports to foreign companies. Athens signed a contract with Cosco in 2016 that has allowed the Chinese company to secure a two-thirds majority stake in the port of Piraeus.

Reliable large infrastructure building projects skills have been developed by Chinese companies. China has also invested in container ports around the world.

Shipping has a long history in Greece and famous names associated with it such as the Greek Onassis (born 1906 in Smyrna, Turkey), his father in the cigarette business. His family were victims of the slaughter of Greeks in that area, and he escaped and fled when he was 17.

His human story is worth reading, spanning the turbulent times of the 1920s until his death in 1975, 2 years after the death of his son two years earlier.

During his lifetime, shipping was part of a respected industry and the many uses of ships was never considered as a potentially harmful ecological component. He became a shipping magnate by being able to take advantage of the 1930s Depression:

Lucky for him, this was the 1930s—The Great Depression—and everyone was abandoning ship on the shipping business. So, Onassis offered to buy up the vessels from the companies that were—pun intended—going under.

Don’t think that Onassis was actually trying to help anyone: He got the ships for well under half price.


Many billionaires have achieved their goals by purchasing industries at silly prices when their value has dropped due to a crisis. They have grown the business and gained worldwide fame as a consequence.

In the UK, Mrs Thatcher sold off Britain’s assets:

The world of Money impacts all of us and many of us are left with family histories which show the damaging results of ruthless power. But the earth bears the main toll and we watch it dying before our eyes.

Efforts are being made to provide greener fuels for shipping:

But that costs money, and budgets are tight, so instead loopholes are sought and a blind eye turned to the toxic waste dumped in our oceans.

We all know about the oil spills, but plastic nurdles are another catastrophic cause of ocean death if they end up in the sea:

And don’t forget human waste:

A large cruise ship can produce about 170,000 gallons of sewage on a daily basis. On an average of 0.01 to 0.06 m3 of sewage is produced per person in a day.

The UK proposed barge to house 500 migrants has been refitted to be more sanitary than it was when used in Amsterdam. But have they a sewage filtration system which prevents waste going into the sea at Portland? Let us hope so.

Container cargo ships can become unstable:

ship capsize is a seafarer’s worst nightmare. These incidents are often due to inadequate ship stability caused by a sudden and unplanned rise in the ship’s Centre of Gravity (CoG). Tragic consequences include injury, death, pollution and total loss of ship and cargo. All ships are exposed to this potential danger but some ship types and trades are much more exposed than others. In particular, containerships and general cargo and multi-purpose ships carrying containers on deck – with a high ship CoG and low residual stability are in the instability high risk category

The greenwashing which goes on to present a responsible industry is upsetting. Just as we all understand factory fishing (I wrote about the harm supertrawlers do years ago, see

has overwhelmed and destroyed the marine life ecosystems, still demand and supply continues unabated. The shipping industry seems to be expanding, not shrinking.

Last, but not least, the tragedy in the Mediterranean of migrant deaths, fleeing in overcrowded and often leaking boats, desperate for a better life.

See here:

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see
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