What am I to make of this?
Maintaining its status as the largest global ocean carrier was one of the reasons no doubt that led to Maersk placing an order in February 2011 with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering for ten 18,000 teu ships with an option for twenty more, although the Danish carrier made a great play that the drivers behind ordering this new so-called Triple-E class of ship was fuel efficiency and environmental issues.
This sentence is literate, balanced and nearly incomprehensible. So what mistake has the writer made? It's a common mistake of non-professional writers whose only training was in school or university, where they learned that formality equals gravitas. The easiest way to achieve this formality is by saying things indirectly and putting clauses and phrases in the wrong order. If we do this with a simple concept, then we end up with a sentence like this:
Being bitten by a dog is what happened to him
We all know that this should be written as "a dog bit him", or possibly "he was bitten by a dog" (passive voice is frowned upon by stylists but it's not always wrong). But why don't we apply the same rules of simplicity to more complicated subjects? It's easy to understand "being bitten by a dog is what happened to him" because the concept itself is so simple, but we revolt against its ugliness. If something is harder to understand, why make it more difficult still by using complicated language and sentence structure?
So, how to simplify it? Firstly, let's get rid of unnecessary adjectives. My readers already know that Maersk is a global carrier and that its medium is the ocean. Even so, the word carrier feels a bit naked on its own and it is repeated later, so maybe we'll be better off by changing the order of the phrases. We can simplify the start of the sentence by ordering it naturally: event, public motivation, private motivation. We can also save words by abbreviating the name of the shipyard. While Daewoo has many divisions, we don't need to use the full name of the shipyard to specify which division received an order for ships. Of course it was the shipyard!
By putting the words and phrases in an unnatural order, the writer has had to add words simply to remind the reader who is doing what. A natural order of events flows more easily and enables us to create two much shorter sentences from one heavy and unwieldy one. We have also got rid of the rather vague "led to", which is a soft way of defining motivation. Writing "one of the reasons no doubt" adds to the vacillation, as well as being an awkward order of phrases. It could have been worse: the writer might have used "due to", but don't get me started on that over-used piece of vague association.
So, by re-ordering the sentence, splitting it in two and getting rid of some extra words, we're left with:
When Maersk ordered ten 18,000 teu ships with Daewoo in February 2011, it made a great play that the drivers behind ordering this new so-called Triple-E class of ship were fuel efficiency and environmental issues. However, the Danish carrier was also no doubt keen to maintain its status as the world's biggest shipping line.Here, we've managed to say all the same things in 54 words and two sentences instead of 69 words and one. That's a reduction of 22%, which makes the reader's life so much easier. It can probably be improved further, but this was part of a 20,000-word chapter and there's a limit to how much time I can spend on it.
Moral: Follow a logical order of thought. Your readers will appreciate it.