Day 11: A Shipload of Logistics

After arriving back at the hotel late last night, I was tired when I woke up for another start. I decided to try the coffee provided in the hotel room. I’m not really sure what I expected, but even for instant coffee it was not close to being good. I decided to stick to tea after that.

In the hotel lobby, we met up with Mac (an American who now lives in Shanghai), who would serve as our “tour guide” for the company visits and the bus ride for the day.

On the bus to the first visit, Mac told us a bit about his life. He talked about moving to China for job opportunities after going to college in the US, how he had to adjust to a very different environment, and a little about his personal life. He also told us a few tidbits about life in Shanghai that I never would have known otherwise; on our way out of downtown Shanghai, he pointed out some apartment buildings. Apparently, while these were pretty standard size apartments, they were worth over a million US dollars each, due to their proximity to the city. It turns out, most working-class people live at least an hour away from the city, and as they move up the ranks in the business world and earn more, they move closer.

Cars are also much more of a luxury item, but this is enforced by the local government; it costs a few thousand dollars just to get a license plate in Shanghai, which serves to limit the number of cars on the road and keeps the already crazy rush hours from being worse.

We arrived at our first company visit, Ocean East International Logistics, where we were informed of what exactly a Logistics company does (move stuff for other companies and serves as a liaison between shipping companies and products) and how Ocean East tries to stay on top of the competition. Then we were brought to one of their warehouses, where what might be the future of manual labor was on display: completely autonomous, “smart”, driverless forklifts. According to Ocean East, they are not yet quite as cost effective as real people, but this is a way for them to stay ahead in their business, as it is a selling point for customers.

We ate lunch at a hotel restaurant halfway to the next visit. The most interesting dish to me this time was a fried… something (I never did find out what it was, but it was delicious) served with these pink, styrofoam-esque discs. The discs were probably made out of some kind of rice product, but they were delicious, and now I wish Amazon shipped things in them instead of packing peanuts or air packets.

The second “company visit” was to the biggest port in Shanghai, Yang Shan Port. While driving there (on a 30 kilometer long bridge!), Mac pointed out the newest addition to the ever-evolving port: an autonomous port (the largest in the world, I believe). Once we got to the main port, the sheer number of shipping containers was overwhelming. Of the business-end of things we’ve seen so far, this port was by far the most awe-inspiring.

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