In the past decade, container ships have more than doubled in size as shipping carriers seek to capture economies of scale in transportation, fuel, and crew costs.
In turn, the upsurge of megaships has placed intensified demands on global shipping networks, requiring ports to make perpetual and capital-intensive adaptations to their infrastructure, placing heavy demands on logistics labour, intensifying environmental damage, and generating a global shipping crisis of massive proportions. And yet, as ports struggle to catch up, ships keep getting bigger.
By interrogating the interface between these two massive infrastructural projects through a case study of the ports of Singapore and Los Angeles, Charmaine Chua examines the irrational rationalities of obsessions with monstrosity in the logistics industry. In situating the growth of megaships and ports within the broader context of the rise of logistics, she argues that the material systems of global supply should be understood not as durable infrastructure — public works that stimulate local economic development — but as ‘indurable’ monstrosities that imprint the colonial violence of global circulation onto the lived spaces of vulnerable populations.
Photo: Pieter Kers