It feels like we’re being given a rare look into a usually

The invisible network that keeps the world running

Canada Goose Outlet It been just over 45 years since the Apollo Moon landings, and some would have it that we are failing to build big anymore; that we’ve since become too fascinated with the small, too impressed by our tablet computers, games consoles, and smartphones that we don’t invest in grand, world changing engineering projects. Canada Goose Outlet

Stand on the bridge of a container ship docked in a mega port in Korea, however, and it’s clear that’s just not true. The global supply chain that brings us those tablets and phones, and pretty much everything else from our clothes and canada goose outlet miami food to our toys and souvenirs, is nothing short of a moon shot itself a vast, unprecedented engineering solution goose outlet canada to a truly astronomical logistics problem. The fact that it’s hidden from most people’s sight, and that it has become so utterly reliable and efficient canada goose outlet parka to the point of transparency, doesn’t make it any less of an achievement of human technical endeavour.

To find out more about this huge, invisible network, I accompanied a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division for a rare voyage on a container ship between Korea and China. The aim of the trip was to follow the supply chain back to some of the remotest parts of China and the source of our consumer goods and what we saw as we travelled through mega ports and across oceans looked closer to science fiction than reality.

Early rise

canada goose store We’re picked up at 9am from our guesthouse in the Korean city of Busan by a local ‘ground canada goose outlet online agent’ for the shipping company Maersk, whose canada goose outlet vancouver ship will be carrying us for the next week. They have at least one of these personnel handlers in every major port in the world, their job being to ensure crew members make their way through each country’s unique and complex maze of customs and immigration bureaucracy, and on to their ships on time. canada goose store

canada goose coats View image of The artificial night of Hong Kong’s container port (Liam Young/Unknown Fields) (Credit: Liam Young/Unknown Fields) canada goose coats

If you were asked to name some multi national corporate brands you could probably reel off half a dozen, from Apple to Coca Cola, but chances are that Maersk wouldn’t spring to mind. Yet the Danish shipping giant is the very definition of a multi national corporation, with over 25,000 employees, 345 offices in 125 countries, 600 active ships, and more than 2 million containers moved every year. The company is estimated to be canada goose kensington parka uk responsible for 20% of Denmark’s GDP on its own. Maersk might not make any of the things you buy in shops, but it more than canada goose jacket outlet toronto likely put a lot of them there.

Canada Goose online As we drive along, Busan’s canada goose outlet mississauga dense mass of high rise canada goose factory outlet apartment blocks gives way to what will be one of the defining images of the next seven days; the giant cranes that line every major port in the world. Soon we’re into the depths of Busan New Port itself, and speeding past endless, towering stacks of shipping containers until we’re finally dwarfed by the huge, blue mass of the Maersk Seletar, the 320m (1,050ft ) long, 80,000 tonne, 9,000 container capacity ship that will be my canada goose outlet store near me home for the next seven days. Canada Goose online

canada goose clearance sale View image of (Kate Davies/Unknown Fields) (Credit: Kate Davies/Unknown Fields) canada goose clearance sale

Canada Goose sale It’s not until we get out on to the towering balconies canada goose stockists uk around the ship’s bridge and look back canada goose outlet paypal at Busan that we’re fully able to first comprehend the scale and nature of these Asian mega ports. It feels like we’re being given a rare look into a usually hidden space, a peek at the intricate but city scaled machinery of global capitalism. Canada Goose sale

cheap Canada Goose From that viewpoint essentially high above the sea, looking into land it’s easiest to describe the ports as a sequence of layers. First, towering above and over the ship, are the loading cranes. Vast structures mounted on huge, four legged frames, they resemble the naked scaffolding of unbuilt skyscrapers, and trigger nostalgic reminders of canada goose parka outlet Saturn V rocket launch towers from the 1960s. Their sheer size makes them the first thing you see when you arrive at any port whether from land or sea, and as staggering as they are they don’t make their full impact until you see them move. cheap Canada Goose

Future gaze

canadian goose jacket Built on tracks in the surface of the harbour side, they slide left and right, parallel to the berthed ships, accompanied by a cacophony of warning sounds and robotic canada goose outlet toronto address safety announcements. Once in port canada goose outlet online store review at night I saw one suddenly fire into life next to the ship in a stroboscopic explosion canada goose outlet of lights, before it tracked slowly above my high vantage point, bathing me in the orange glow of a dozen small halogen suns. It was an intense experience. canadian goose jacket

buy canada goose jacket cheap View image of (Liam Young/Unknown Fields) (Credit: Liam Young/Unknown Fields) buy canada goose jacket cheap

Canada Goose Parka The second layer in from the cranes are the trucks; a constant loop of circling, diesel belching flatbeds. Endlessly, they arrive at the bottom of the vast cranes, seemingly one every minute when the port is at its busiest, stopping in precise locations so the crane drivers can either pluck their containers off their backs and on to the ships, or drop a freshly unloaded container straight on to them, before the trucks instantly pull away and head inland. Canada Goose Parka

It’s a hypnotic, fascinating dance to watch: the canada goose outlet edmonton cranes lifting containers off the ships, the trucks pulling up canada goose discount uk in time to catch them as they are elegantly lowered down on steel cables. The complex and precise orchestration behind every move is almost bewildering to comprehend. The ships never unload everything at just one port that’d be hugely inefficient for these vast, globe orbiting warehouses so the crane drivers need to know which one to take off and when, just as the truck drivers need to know where to take each one they collect.

View image of (Liam Young/Unknown Fields) (Credit: Liam Young/Unknown Fields)

It’s the kind of logistical information that it’s hard to imagine any one human mind comprehending, and the truth is no single one does this is distributed canada goose outlet las vegas knowledge, managed by Maersk’s vast world spanning computer network and shaped and interpreted by complex, similarly unknowable, algorithms. In a very real sense the crane and truck drivers are little more than elements in a vast robotic system, receiving instructions in their cabs from their computerised managers, following orders on endless cycles until their shift ends.

buy canada goose jacket Not that there isn’t a certain amount of pride in their work, as regimented and alienating as it might seem it’s not unusual to see the cranes decorated with awards and badges announcing record breaking container shifting performances. At the same time it’s also impossible not to be struck by the precariousness of their job security; canada goose outlet hong kong with so much managed by the network it must surely only be a matter of time before the system evolves enough to remove the human element entirely. From the bridge of the Seletar they look like row upon row of repeating, multicoloured Lego bricks, six units high, each straddled by multiple cranes miniature versions of the ship loaders, sliding back canada goose outlet location and forth on rails. These cranes continually shuffle the position of the containers within the stacks themselves, following the algorithmic wisdom of the network to ensure everything is in the most efficient position possible; cargo heading backwards and forwards, inland and out. buy canada goose jacket

Canada Goose Jackets View image of Giant cranes load ships in Hong Kong (Kate Davies/Unknown Fields) (Credit: Kate Davies/Unknown Fields) Canada Goose Jackets

At every port we arrived at, the three layers cranes, trucks, containers seemed fundamentally the same, standardised with only the occasional exception. The Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung uses instead of trucks oddly top heavy looking skeletal machines that bounce along on huge moon buggy tyres. They swarm endlessly like busy robots, their blue or yellow frames smeared in grease and grime, discharging black clouds of diesel smog.

It’s only layer four that displays any individualisation the landscapes beyond the ports. In Busan it was housing blocks branded with corporation logos nestling beneath green mountains. And at Shanghai’s Yangshan Deep Water Port it was the six lane, 20 mile long Donghai bridge, built to carry the constant flow of container trucks in and out from the port, built on a vast artificial island.

Dark skies

canada goose clearance After three days canada goose jacket outlet sale at sea, we reach the city of Ningbo. Arriving into port at night we are presented with an almost nightmare vision, a Blade Runner like landscape of glowing lights and smokestacks painting the low cloud ceiling orange. We’d been delayed going in as the black shadow of a ship owned by French giant CMA CGM slid gently past. It towers above ours, with a startling 18,000 container capacity. As soon as we hit port side the cranes fired into life, the trucks queuing up as though impatient to make up the delayed time. canada goose clearance

View image of (Liam Young/Unknown Fields) (Credit: Liam Young/Unknown Fields)

canada goose The next morning, unable to sleep, I rise at 4.30am and head for the top of the ship again, eager to see the port in daylight. The industrial canada goose outlet in montreal landscape in front of me is vast and awful: a huge coal burning power station fed directly by incoming bulk carrier ships sits right on the port side, its towers filling the sky with black, while the landscape behind is filled with refineries, gas storage plants, and tightly huddled together housing blocks. You can not only see the pollution the vast carbon footprint of this industrial network but taste it in the air. As much talk and concern as there is in the West about the environmental impact of China’s economic dominance, it’s easy to forget how much of that impact the Chinese people are taking as a direct hit themselves, as much for the West benefit as their own. canada goose

canada goose deals It’s not just onshore environments that containerisation has shaped and transformed. The surfaces of our planet’s oceans for centuries a space of mystery and myth, of expanse and desolation have been rationalised and shrunk. Once an enigmatic, awe inspiring place, the sea has become a zone of efficiency, little more than another channel for the automated supply chain network canada goose deals.

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