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One and a half million seafarers, enough to populate a city, are keeping the global economy afloat -- but at a huge cost to themselves.   © Nikkei photo illustration by Nakako Shiotsuki
The Big Story

Port in a storm: No end in sight to global shipping chaos

Behind the relentless online boom, stranded seafarers and soaring rates

AURORA ALMENDRAL, Contributing writer | East Asia

BANGKOK -- For the global shipping industry, chaos began with the tap of a million "buy now" buttons.

In the second half of 2020, Americans, trapped at home by the pandemic, started buying weighted blankets, Crocs, giant fleece hoodies, ring lights and desks at a relentless pace. One toilet paper manufacturer saw a 600% increase in sales over two weeks. Another retailer sold out of a year's stock of bird feeders in two months. Yoga leggings, milk frothers, air fryers and lawn mowers were crammed into shipping containers in the ports of Asia.

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