Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another Layer of China

Went on a site visit to the Shanghai International Container Terminal and visited OOCL’s warehouse and shipping yard. OOCL (Orient Overseas Container Line) is one of the world’s largest international container transport companies. Companies like OOCL make imported goods that we’re so accustomed to, all possible: Japanese razor clams, fancy French cheeses, and probably every piece of clothing you are wearing right now. These ports are operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no holidays, no breaks, moving goods at the most competitive price. Companies have even built vessels that are too large to fit through the Panama Canal in order to move goods faster. Both the PR rep for China’s ports and the OOCL rep knew we were planning students interested in logistics, but I don’t think they understood the reasons why we were interested, and couldn’t give us clear answers for anything. Questions like: is that housing right next the container yard? Is that a woman and child in that container transport truck? Is pollution even a consideration? What’s the employee base and how many are contracted? Answers: Yes. Uh, maybe. Pollution? 900 in each phase. I didn’t even bother to ask about worker’s safety and health insurance. I’m not gonna claim to understand all the intricacies associated with international trade and I’ll be the first to admit, I love me some imported Umeboshi and shopping at Costco, but after seeing the ports, you can’t help but rethink the way you consume.

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