Documentary unveils murky world of shipping

Cheap clothes, electronics, food — all of it travels the globe by ship. And the true cost of shipping is higher than you may think. The Current looks into an eye-opening investigation into the murky world of shipping with the director of Freightened.
Swimmers share the beach with a rusty container ship (

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How can a jacket cost only 59 Euro in Madrid when the materials to make the jacket have travelled 48,000 km around the world to arrive in a retail store? 

It's a question that inspired directorDenis Delestrac to create the documentary, Freightened: The Real Cost of Shipping  — delving inside a hidden industry that is crucial to the way we live and consume but know little about.

Delestrac tells The Current's guest host Dave Seglins that the contents of what's inside 90 per cent of shipping is unknown — a source for many issues around the world.

"The captain doesn't know. The shipping company usually doesn't know. The containers are loaded by exporters," says Delestrac.


"There's 60,000 commercial ships constantly sailing the world's oceans, according to Delestrac, and although we don't see the ships "they have a huge impact because it's the backbone of globalization."

"Some people think globalization ... was started with low wages in Asian countries but if we didn't have the ships to... bring us those products... we wouldn't use this workforce."

"So the ships are really the link between the offer and demand."
It's estimated pollution from shipping causes 60,000 premature deaths, according to director Denis Delestrac. (

In the Philippines, people like Peejay Lopez Catoy — a welder on the high seas for about 10 years  —  gets paid 1,000 Euro a month for working 75 hours per week.

Delestrac says that's 10 times more than at home. Often crew members are scared to lose their jobs.

"I can find job in the Philippines but the salary is $100 per month. How can I survive on that?" Catoy says in the documentary, Freightened.

"All my life I spent on the ship. Christmas, New Year's .. my wife's birthday. I am always here. They pay me for my job but it's like a jail."

One of the biggest environmental impacts from the shipping industry is air pollution.

It is estimated pollution from shipping causes 60,000 premature deaths. The high sulphur emissions from ships create hot zones of pollution in port areas like Newark, New Jersey, where there is a higher than normal incident of respiratory illness.

Listen to the full conversation.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.