Along Liquid Paths: Research Book

Page 1

Along Liquid Paths


1. Research question 2. Site 3. Type 4. Image Archive 5. Development 6. Folio 7. Text Archive


When you’re surrounded in all directions by days worth of shifting, liquid expanse, all distance becomes incalculable. Out there your environment is always changing and always the same, and for the 1.5 million seafarers who work on up to nine month long contracts, this has a profound effect. These seafarers, isolated and invisible, are the custodians of the 90% of world trade that’s carried by sea. They stand watch aboard hulking vessels that chug along endlessly - crossing both national boundaries and time zones as they go. Like the pirate and the privateer, the subject of the seafarer is directly informed by the sea. And how exactly this subject is produced is what my project explores. Specifically, the project asks how redesigning a container ship can construct a new subjectivity for seafarers. The basis for my design is a body of research conducted into the complex ways in which the space of the sea is organised and governed. At a macro scale this concerns discrepancies over juridical boundaries, and at the scale of the vessel it’s about systems such as ‘flags of convenience' - where shipping companies fly flags from nations like Panama or Liberia to avoid tax as well as pesky labour regulations. Like the free trade zone, the flag of convenience presents a distinctly maritime form of deregulation; one that provokes novel understandings of nationality. Through this research I became interested in how these extralegal tools for organising space might be commandeered toward more equitable ends.

Flags swapped and bought like trading cards



The sea is monotonous and imposing, yet in spatial and juridical terms perhaps the defining feature of the sea is it’s ambiguousness. With laws such as universal jurisdiction undermining the supposed lawlessness of the high seas, it cannot be said that the sea is beyond control. However what is for sure is that efforts to control the seas are fraught with tremendous difficulty. The sea is liquid and moving, and these material qualities make the space of the sea resistant to capitalism’s incessant efforts at parcelisation. Capital attempts to organize the sea using forms of sovereignty that are drawn from experiences on land. Yet these efforts at neatly dividing or enclosing the sea are challenged by the very geophysical force of the ocean. What results from this clash then is the creation of various amphibious and unique zones such as the EEZ, the High Risk Zone, the tax haven, the freeport, and the ship flying the flag of convenience. These zones are spaces in which control is either selectively increased or (more frequently) decreased in order to smoothen the flow of capital. I claim that by developing a keen understanding of the sea and its zones of exception that I will uncover the most appropriate spaces in which to intervene.


Case Study: Oil Spill - MV Prestige [Galician Coast]


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Case Study: Women on Waves - Langenort [Mexican Coast]


Case Study: Oil Spill - MV Prestige




Case Study: MSF / SOS Mediterranee - MV Aquarius


Case Study: Women on Waves - Langenort




In order to learn more about organization of the sea I looked at three specific case studies. Each case relates to a particular ship, and each ship uses the sea in a different way. My analysis involved trying to understand the architecture of each ship as well as the routes that these ships take. Case 1: MV Prestige is a 26-year oil tanker that split in two off the coast of Spain. As seen through the Prestige the sea is a space of logistics; a switchboard through which inputs and outputs flow following the singular logic of efficiency. The Prestige was built in Japan in 1976. It was operated by a Greek company, owned by a brass-plate company in Liberia, and flying the flag of the Bahamas. In November of 2002 the Prestige was being used by a Swiss-based oil company to carry crude oil #4 from Russia to Singapore. The particular journey that saw the ships demise begins in St. Petersburg. From there the Prestige travels through the exclusive economic zones of different post-soviet states, it continues through Scandinavian waters and past the English Channel - near London’s P&I Club, where the ship was insured. When the Prestige nears the Costa da Morte off Galicia, it encounters a violent storm. It proceeds through 3 days of rough seas before Captain Apostolos Mangouras suddenly hears a loud bang, a sound produced by a 15 metre rupture in the side of the

ships hull. The ship begins to list, tilting 25 degrees to starboard. At this point the Filipino crew are evacuated by helicopters, after which Mangouras turned for the port of A Coruna. But Spain refused the ship shelter, as did France and Portugal. This led to the Prestige getting towed out to sea by its stern, before splitting in half 250 kms from the Spanish coast. As the two parts of the ship fell nearly 3 kms to the ocean floor they released around 60,000 metric tonnes of thick black oil. However for me what’s important about this case is not so much the devastating environmental impact it had but more so how this moment of rupture causes a break in the calculated efficiency of the oil and shipping industries. No members from either of these parties were charged however, instead responsibility for the spill was offset onto Captain Mangouras, who was convicted of recklessness. So to restate it, what I uncovered from this case was how a moment of disruption can unravel an opaque global network. Case 2: MV Aquarius, a former German coast-guard ship now used by SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres to rescue refugees off the coast of Libya. The ship was christened MV Meerkatze and was manufactured in Bremen in 1977. It spent its early years protecting fishing and other maritime interests in the German part of the North Sea. By 2009 the ship was renamed 16

Aquarius and re-registered under the port of Gibraltar. From this port it operated as a research vessel, up until 2016 when it moved to Marseille after being commandeered by MĂŠdecins Sans Frontières. By 2018 the Aquarius was involved in rescuing hundreds of refugees daily, mainly operating between Libya, Italy and Malta. One day in June, after the ship left Catania for the Libyan coast, it picked up 630 refugees who were kept on the open deck of the ship. This is worth noting because its a common theme with such maritime initiatives; the architecture of these vessels is often barely altered even after their functions have changed drastically. When Aquarius began its return to the safety of Italy, this particular day it was refused entry - and then again refused entry to Malta. After days of idling in the Mediterranean, the Aquarius and it’s 630 refugees were finally allowed to dock in Valencia. By August Gibraltar removed the Aquarius from its registry because it was now being used for care instead of its stated purpose of surveying. After this it was briefly added to and then removed from the Panama registry. It is sits idle in Marseille, waiting for a flag registry to accept it. Case 3: Langenort, a tugboat used by the organization Women on Waves to deliver abortion pills to women from countries in which abortion is illegal. As with the Aquarius, the Langenort is

a boat used for care, and similarly its design has also gone largely unaltered since it became used to help at-risk women. Over the lifetime of the organization a number of different vessels have been used, and on each the space for care was concentrated in a container that has sat on each of the vessels. Inside this standardized box is a purpose built interior fitted out by Atelier Van Lieshout. The Langenort, which was also built in Germany, operates out of the Netherlands and has led successful campaigns to places including Ireland, Poland and Mexico, while it was stopped - sometimes with violent force, in places including Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and Guatemala. To subvert the jurisdiction of these different countries, the ship takes women from their shores out into international waters, where the Dutch flag turns the ship into a space of Dutch sovereignty - a space in which abortion is legal. They then provide the women with abortion pills before taking them back to land. Other cases: Other built spaces include cargo ships, seaports, freeports, containers, warehouses, express supermarkets and fulfilment centres. Relevant territories include the hinterland, the waterfront, breakwaters and seawalls, coastal fishing villages, islands, reefs, the beach, the undeveloped shoreline, the open ocean, the deeps, and so on. 17



Case Study: Women on Waves - Langenort




Case Study: Women on Waves - Langenort




Case Study: MSF / SOS Mediterranee - MV Aquarius




Case Study: MSF / SOS Mediterranee - MV Aquarius




Case Study: Oil Spill - MV Prestige




Case Study: Oil Spill - MV Prestige




The following collection of images, documents and drawings are intended to provide a basis for my research.

'The codification of the EEZ under UNCLOS III in 1982... was the single greatest enclosure in human history. EEZs cover 3525 percent of the total area of the seas.'

Exclusive Economic Zones (≼ 200 nautical miles)


Exclusive Economic Zones (≼ 200 nautical miles)


Port of Rotterdamn (the biggest in Europe)


Port of Shanghai (the biggest in the world)

[These two ports are barely distinguishable]


Gantry crane - can interact with containers at multiple heights


A colourful barcode - a sea of standardized containers


Rows of cranes and boxes


Rows of cranes - responsible for moving the container from the sea to the land


DP World Logistics Park [Tilbury]


Massive infrastructure in Netherlands


OOCL Hong Kong - Port of Registry: Hong Kong,

# of Standard Container Units (TEU): 21,413


CSCL Globe - Port of Registry: Hong Kong,

# of Standard Container Units (TEU): 19,100


MV Prestige Oil Spill - coast of Galicia,Spain, 2002


MV Rena


Prestige’s captain - Apostolos Mangouras (two years in prison)


Rena’s captain - Mauro Balomaga (seven months in prison)


First victim on Sage Sagitarius, 2012


Second victim on Sage Sagitarius, 2012


Exxon Valdez Oil Spill - Alaska, 1989


Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill - Gulf of Mexico, 2010


Joseph Hazelwood, captain of Exxon Valdez, charged and later acquited of being intoxicated


Deepwater Horizon


Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (passed the summer after Exxon Valdez spill)


Maritime Labour Convention gives specific guidelines for the spatial requirements of a ship's living quarters


Alang (Gujarat, India) is the biggest shipbreaking yard in the world, it is where 50% of the world's ship breaking occurs


In Alang regulations concerning labour and safety are largely non-existent


TABLE OF CONTENTS Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal Text




Annex I


Annex II


Annex III


Annex IV


Annex V A


Annex V B


Annex VI


Annex VII


Annex VIII


Annex IX


Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal Text


Annex A


Annex B


| 3

The Basel Convention is a treaty responsible for minimizing illegal shipbreaking practices


Tanjung Perak port, Surabaya, Indonesia


Human against hulking hull


Writing for faraway people


A chip reveals layers of paint


Layers of paint expressing former vessel names and ports of registry (how can this be utilized as a language for representation?)


Reregistered and renamed


Rupture of a ship


Case study: Aquarius (migrant rescue ship)


Internal layout of MV Aquarius


Case study: Women on Waves (first ship - Aurora)


Case study: Women on Waves (second ship - Langenort)


Case study: Women on Waves (third ship - Borndiep)


CS Salamis Glory - Photographed by Allan Sekula


Stowage of the British slave ship Brookes


(Not to conflate two separate issues from two distinct times but merely to situate this contemporary image of boats filled with black bodies within a history)

A boatload of uncertain futures


Inside a mess hall


Inside a kitchen (20% of the world's fleet are manned by Filipino crew)


Mess hall


Mess hall (linoleum, fluorescent tube lighting, tables with edge guards)


Officer's dining room


Officer's dining room (the rigid structuring of spaces helps maintain order aboard - this extends to the rigid definition of class/race)


A moment of leisure - A game of basketball enjoyed by the Filipino crew of a cargo ship


Rust and muck dealt with by hand - the visceral experience of the sea as fundamental to a mariner's understanding of the sea


Marshall Islands - 3rd most popular flag of convenience, this status intimately tied with it's colonial history


Marshall Island sea charts - the dynamic maps of local inhabitants illustrate an understanding of the seas as dynamic


Diagram showing the movement of funds into offshore shell companies [former colonies make great offshore centres]


Postcard from Panama - The national identity of Panama intimately connected to the Panama Canal


Web page for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines flag registry


Web page for Cyprus flag registry


English language proficiency certificates sold on


Other fake documents sold on


“Our premise is that the sea remains the crucial space of globalization. Nowhere else is the disorientation, violence, and alienation of contemporary capitalism more manifest, but this truth is not self-evident, and must be approached as a puzzle, or mystery, a problem to be solved.” — Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, 2010

With Fish Story (1995), Allan Sekula began an ongoing investigation into the conditions of workers in and around the sea.His art and writing has done much to draw attention to the impacts of globalisation that have since become ever more pressing. Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum (2010-13) - Allan Sekula


Studio CAMP: The Boat Modes (2012) The work of Studio CAMP has also done much to engage with the plight and the transnational history of seafarers. This work looks specifically at the maritime connection between the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.


Battleship Potemkin - Sergei Eistenstein The sailors on the Potemkin revolt against their harsh conditions, killing the officers of the ship and gaining their freedom. A squadron of ships is sent to overthrow the Potemkin, but the ships side with the revolt and refuse to attack.


A Seafarer's Tale - Produced by ITF (International Transport Federation) to highlight the struggles faced by seafarers, including issues such as flags of convenience and indentured servitude.


Most agit-trains contained a printing press, government complaint office, printed political leaflets and pamphlets, library books,even a mobile movie theater and mobile dark room. Agit-trains traveled the rails of Russia, Siberia, and the Ukraine in an attempt to inculcate the values and program of the new revolutionary government to a scattered and isolated peasantry.’ Agit-Train


Agit-Boat - Red Star, a steamer that sailed up and down the Volga River in 1920


Oakland, California (Aug 2014) - In an event called 'Block the Boat for Gaza', some 5000 protesters stop Israeli ship Zim Piraeus from unloading at the Port of Oakland.


Genoa, Italy (May 2019) - At the Port of Genoa dockers successfully boycott the Saudi ship Bahri Yanbu, which contains weapons believed to be destined for use in Yemen.



 液体路径

Approaching the project as a company - developing a corporate identity


Processing Plant

Port Terminal Grain Farm

Exporting from: Le Havre, FRA

Beauce, FRA

Novorossiysk, RUS

Rostov, RUS

Odessa, UKR

Rivnenska, UKR

Odessa, UKR

Kwiana, AUS

Intermodal Facility

A.L.P. HQ Maritime School

Handymax Vessel








330 320



Distribution Centre


















260 240





240 130







210 200







Port Terminal Importing to : Tanger Med, MAR Oran, DZA Tunis, TUN Alexandria Fz, EGY Jakarta, IDN Manila, PHL

Understanding the supply chain of grain as an exemplary consumer item



The distribution centre


The intermodal facility - food store / leisuire centre to promote logistics worker solidarity


The headquarters - home as the new corporate HQ


The cabin - each cabin is as comfortable as the next


Mess room


Rec room







8.7% Ukranian


Chief Officer

Chief Engineer ETO

Second Officer

8.4% Indonesian

17.1% Ukranian

First Engineer

Third Officer

Second Engineer

Chief Cook

26.1% Filipino

Third Engineer


This kind of thing doesn’t currently happen because of exhorbitant costs to simply enter the industry. What’s more making these kind of changes is not of immediate economic benefit.

Around 30% of active seamen within the collective are at sea at any given time.

ABs Oiler

21.7% Chinese

% Nationality of co-op members

Deck Cadet


17.4% Indian



In my cooperative configuration, backers - the vast majority of whom are former seafarers, current seafarers, or relatives, do not expect immediate return on their investment. They become shareholders in order to increase job security.

Engine Cadet

Standard Vessel Organisation




rolling labour pools means ranks are swapped monthly



Cooperative Vessel Organisation



















Ukraine Bulgaria






300N Egypt



high seas


Sudan Saudi Arabia

China disputed

Oman Yemen






Sri Lanka


Singapore pirate waters

pirate waters

Brunei Malaysia

high seas

00 Indonesia




The route passes the main seafaring countries


Maritime academy 3rd Party

Cooperative Shipping Pool Bank Account

pool agreement

Vessel Owner 1

Manning agency Vessel Owner 2

Seafarers Retailer (EU)


Pool Manager

Certification agency (i.e. Bureau Veritas)

Flag registry Port


Truck driver

Trucking company

Dockworkers come to unload the ship

Cooperative shipping pool

Customs officers come to inspect the ship

Factory (Asia)

Port (EU)

capital flow goods flow commercial agreement

Distribution centre

Organisation Chart



Roman Era - Middle Ages Since antiquity merchant ships have used false flags as a tactic to evade enemy warships. 1800 The fledgling American flag offers little protection to American merchantmen, many of whom transfer their registry back to Great Britain. 1803-15 Many British ships use false flags during Napoleonic Wars.

1850s Slave ships fly false flags to avoid being searched by British anti-slavery fleets. Anti-slavery measures were the first examples of the world’s open waters being subjected to a single body of international legislation. 1903 Canal shaped ambition of the US leads Panama to separate from Colombia. Construction of the Panama Canal finishes the following year.


1915 Robert LaFollette’s 1915 Seamen’s Act helps to ensure a variety of rights for mariners. This results in US-flagged ships being put at an economic disadvantage in comparison to ships registered to countries without such safeguards. 1919 The US Belen Quezada is the first foreign ship re-registered to Panama. This re-registering allowed the ship to transport illegal alcohol between the US and Canada during prohibition. 1915-22 Laws were passed to strengthen the US Merchant Marine and safeguard its mariners. This led to the regular ship inspections by the American Bureau of Shipping. 1920s Frustrated by increasing regulations and labour costs American shipowners begin registering their boats in Panama. 1948 Liberian open registry founded by American government. Registered Agent Office located in New York 1958 United Nations Convention on the High Seas signed. The phrase ‘flag of convenience’ is first used within a US Senate Committee hearing on foreign commerce. A representative of the United Fruit Company admits that his company registers its fleet

under the Honduran flag because “ is a flag of convenience.” [Article 5(1) of the Geneva Convention on the High Seas mandates that ‘the state must effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag’.] 1967 Liberia surpasses UK as world’s largest ship register. 1982 Fourteen European nations sign the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MOU) [Also, UNCLOS was signed - United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]. 1982 Honduras shuts down its open registry operations because it had ‘enabled illegal activity and given Honduras a bad name’ 1989 Basel Convention (on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal) 1999 As a result of Liberian civil war, Panama becomes the biggest ship registry. 2009 More than half the world’s merchant ships are now registered under flags of convenience. 109


on Abstracting space There is an odd, god-like desire to manipulate space in all of this, terraforming land to create new terminals and ports in some places, blowing up islands to make way for ships in others, slicing land open to create waterways, letting the earth’s open sores bleed at massive costs to human and animal habitats, all for the faster transaction time. Charmaine Chua, The Disorder of Things Time and space rendered abstract under the impact of commodity exchange are marked by homogeneity, continuity and emptiness of all natural and material content, visible or invisible (e.g. air). Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and Manual Labour, (48) There is no road in the deep sea, we do not need to chase [after other countries], we are the road Xi Jingping, On developments in South China Sea

ON FLAGS Flags are wind made visible. They are like bits cut from clouds, nearer and more varied in colour, tethered and given permanent shape. In their movement they are truly arresting. Nations use them to mark the air above them as their own, as though the wing could be partitioned. Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power, (86) To the victories of steam and the container, we can add the flag of convenience: a new ensign of camouflage and confusion, draped over the superficial clarity of straight lines and boxes. Allan Sekula, Fish Story on ship workers Containers, in their modular, block-like, homogeneous forms, wall off the goods being transported from those bodies transporting them. The container form, then, renders the containerized commodity utterly illegible to the workers charged with guarding and ensuring their movement. Charmaine Chua, The Disorder of Things


ON THE SEA Our premise is that the sea remains the crucial space of globalization. Nowhere else is the disorientation, violence, and alienation of contemporary capitalism more manifest, but this truth is not self-evident, and must be approached as a puzzle, or mystery, a problem to be solved. Allan Sekula and NoÍl Burch, The Forgotten Space The apparent binary division of the planet’s surface into two fundamental surfaces - land and water - has been used to justify a complex and widely accepted political cosmology that complements state territory with external spaces of exception. However, it is premised on a reduction of the space inbetween - the coast - to an abstract space without dimension. Philip E. Steinberg

The boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea‌the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development, but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of imagination. Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces

ON SHIPS The passage had begun, and the ship, a fragment detached from the earth, went on lonely and swift like a small planet. Round her the abuses of sky and sea met in an unattainable frontier. A great circular solitude moved with her, ever changing and ever the same, always monotonous and always imposing. Joseph Conrad, The Nigger of the Narcissus 111


The following excerpts provide the conceptual basis for my project. These texts are from scholars in a variety of fields; anthropology, art, urbanism, human geography, and mobility studies. But the scholars from whom I drew the most all come from the field of International Relations. From this field the writing of Charmaine Chua, Barry Ryan and Brett Neilson has been fundamental to the formation of this project.


Of other seas: metaphors and materialities in maritime regions

Fish Story / Allan Sekula

/ Philip E. Steinberg ‘Fish Story follows two interwoven strands, both of which turn ‘The apparent binary division of the planet’s surface into two

around questions of liminality and flux. First, it is a ‘documen-

fundamental surfaces - land and water - has been used to justify

tary’ reading of contemporary maritime space. As both sea and

a complex and widely accepted political cosmology that com-

land are progressively “rationalized” by increasingly sophisticat-

plements state territory with external spaces of exception. How-

ed industrial methods, does the “classic” relation between ter-

ever, it is premised on a reduction of the space inbetween - the

restrial space and maritime space undergo a reversal? Does the

coast - to an abstract space without dimension.’

sea become fixed and the land fluid? Second, Fish Story is an “art historical” allegory of the sea as an object of representation.

Manipulating material hydro-worlds (offshore radio piracy) /

How does the sea “disappear” from the cognitive and imagina-

Kimberley Peters

tive horizon of late modernity? Are there broader lessons to be drawn from this disappearance?’

‘A more nuanced and complex relationality emerged where those on board were unable to impact control back onto the

1. Red passenger

dynamic, deep, three dimensional materiality of the sea whose

The ship itself, the hinterland, the waterfront, the seaport,

constant undulation they were immersed in.’

breakwaters and seawalls, coastal fishing villages, islands, reefs,

The sea here is a force, natural and incessant which humans

the beach, the undeveloped shoreline, the pelagic space of the

can but harness and manage, rather than outright shape and

open sea, the deeps, and so on... Strategic naval space, fisheries,


trade routes, national and international waters, exclusive eco113

nomic zones, free ports.

governed by the unpredictability of the wind.

‘... the ocean, that expanse of water which antiquity describes as

Weather became paramount in painting as its actual power

the immense, the infinite, bounded only by the heavens, parent

over human movement diminished, and transit times became

of all things… the ocean which… can neither be seized nor en-

more predictable. Turner’s exorbitation of weather occured at

closed; nay, which rather possesses the earth than is possessed.’

the very historical moment when it was widely imagined to be

Hugo Grotius, The Freedom of the Seas, or the Right Which Be-


longs to the Dutch to Take Part in the East India Trade [1608]

(No matter how advanced you become you’re still impacted by the event of a storm)

Thus the sea’s infinitude gives rise to a doctrine of free trade well before it provides a basis for eighteenth-century aesthetic

‘The passage had begun, and the ship, a fragment detached from

notions of the sublime… When proto-romanticism is later con-

the earth, went on lonely and swift like a small planet. Round

fronted with this uncommodifiable excess, it transforms it into

her the abuses of sky and sea met in an unattainable frontier. A

the sublime, taking it initially as proof of divinity; only later is

great circular solitude moved with her, ever changing and ever

the category naturalized and psychologized.

the same, always monotonous and always imposing.’ Joseph Conrad, Nigger of the Narcissus

The sea’s excess is not easily superseded by modernisation The sea’s resistance to an all-consuming opticality lingered well

The transition to regularized and predictable maritime flows

into the modern period.

initiated by steam propulsion was completed a century later by containerization.

Steam cut an imaginary straight line through a space previously

Containerization obscures more than the physical heterogeneity 114

of cargoes, but also serves to make ports less visible and more

On wharfs and stone piers;

remote from metropolitan consciousness, thus radically alter-

‘Here nature had retreated before the labors of man, who had

ing the relationship between ports and cities.

cut stones and reshaped the boundaries that God had set to the ocean.’ [Globalism’s Discontents and the Return of the Sea / Al-

It can be argued further that the maritime world underwent the

lan Sekula - Winslow Homer’s paintings of the sea]

first legally mandated internationalization or ‘deregulation’ of labor markets with the invention by American shipowners and diplomats of the contemporary system of “flag of convenience” registry in the late 1940s… Little did they imagine that within three decades factories would follow ships to a more complete severing of the link between ownership and location. The flag of convenience system, which assigned nominal sovereignty to new maritime “powers” such as Panama, Honduras, and Liberia, allowed owners in the developed world to circumvent national labor legislation and safety regulations. To the victories of steam and the container, we can add the flag of convenience: a new ensign of camouflage and confusion, draped over the superficial clarity of straight lines and boxes.


The Littoral and the Liminal / Bonnie McCay

From Wikipedia:

‘Public resource management regimes’ become ‘common prop-

The Comedy of the Commons is an economic concept, devel-

erty’ when there is a sense of community among the resource

oped as an opposite model to the tragedy of the commons.In

users and between them and government officials.

the "comedy" individuals contribute knowledge and content for

‘A sense of community is helped by… the existence of some shar-

the good of the community rather than extracting resources for

ing of knowledge of and dependence on shared resources and

their own personal gain.

places as well as a history and an anticipated future of social interaction.’

James Scott (These people not being taxed because it costs more to send

‘From ecological perspectives, coastal boundaries may be

someone up there to collect than is received in tax)

viewed in relation to phytoplankton productivity, the plumes

State space + non-state space

and whorls of great ocean currents, and the shallow undersea plateaus and islands known as continental shelves and offshore banks.’


Fluid Territories / Platon Issias & Hamed Khosravi (Dip 7, AA)

however, means something fundamentally different; it circulates and establishes relations: it is infrastructural.

Sixteenth century: The time when the sea was no longer seen

since the end of the thirteenth century the process of appropria-

only as home to nomadic populations of humans and animals,

tion of the sea has begun, as the first nautical charts were made.

but also as a space of flows of goods, capital and information. Each of the prominent sea empires of the time were based on

Free spaces of trade, storage, and distribution are often trans-

the North Sea.

formed into centres of detention and expulsion for labourers; whose bodies are not only controlled by the automated machin-

The space of the sea, with its ontologies of openness– represent-

ery and robots but are also dominated by the obscure desires of

ed in free navigation, trade, and transportation–, shaped the

the others. Logistics is a biopolitical apparatus.

very idea of urbanisation, a system and a technology of gover-

logistics takes over the land and water with no fundamental

nance of the territory.

difference, shaping fluid territories in which the fastest and the most efficient circulation is the first and foremost guiding prin-

D&G’s ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ spaces: Focusing on the tension


and exchange between the two. Traditionally the idea of architecture is associated with the stri-

The architecture of logistics, ranging from the shipping vessels,

ated spaces, as it sets limits, draws borders, and defines com-

dockyards, oil rigs, harbours, warehouses, and fulfilment cen-

positions… If the Medieval cities resembled the striated spac-

tres, is then a direct modulation of these standardized proce-

es, territories or countryside indicated smooth spaces; spaces

dures, making the space a highly generic environment able to

of distribution and circulation. Architecture of smooth spaces,

cope with instability and change 117

From piracy to fishing, resource extraction, and even spatial oc-

the gaze of the corporate state markets, taking on the free terri-

cupation of the sea in the form of floating vessels or even fixed

tory of the sea, cyberspace and intellectual capital. In this read-

architecture, the sea becomes an existential territory wherein

ing, the architecture of the sea resembles a form of sanctuary

new subjectivities could emerge

for almost any innovative collective action.

‘their ventures were possible, because both operations occurred

The territory of the east coast, from Suffolk coast to Dover has

in principle in the no man’s land of a double freedom, i.e., in the

been recognized as the most vulnerable areas with the highest

non-state sphere: first spatially, in the sphere of the free sea, and

flood risk. Tidal surges wash over the shores in an exceptionally

second, substantively, in the sphere of free trade’ - Carl Schmitt

fast process; in some parts cliffs are being washed away up to 3.5

on the privateer

metres per year.

The spatial connotation of such state of exception could be revisited in two regards: the space of the naval vessel– or any manmade object– and the space of the sea. The former is reduced to confined spaces of living and working– a rather terrestrial spatial configuration– while the latter is the formless space of production, circulation, and distribution. Shrouded in the ambiguous spatial and juridical conditions of the ‘ship’, the collective form of contingent labour could escape 118

The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime / Wil-

tions. Each watched different types of films.

liam Langewiesche

They all called their boat the iron house. Speed of 88rpm

third world manning agents

Rolling side to side by 5 degrees

The type of material held in a ships cargo defines how likely the

Sea state scale of 12

ships owner will be to take risks with the type of ship they use.

Prior to Alang and the like, ship breaking was done in Europe

Oil companies know that using boats older than 20 years or oth-

with expensive machinery etc. At some point it was realised that

erwise prone to faults is too risky

the same work could be done for much cheaper with brute la-

While companies dealing in molasses can pick boats that are

bour. (I saw this as noteworthy because of the apparent regres-

more precarious (molasses disperses easily and without trace in


the case of a spill)

[the difficulty is that now the Indians don’t want their work tak-

The Crystal Tate and Lyle (U.K. molasses company) carrying

en away. Now that the world has created Alang, those who work

from India

there need it]

[repairs being done onboard moving vessels, meaning no costly

They banned the scrapping of US governmental ships in a red

layovers or nosey inspections

herring effort to quell concerns. In reality the commercial ves-

Chipping at rust and paint, even welding

sels were left to behave as per usual.

‘Global officer caste’

Broken English - the language of the sea

3 Messrooms; 1 for officers and cadets, 1 for skilled sailors, and 1

Ocean Average depth of 12,240 ft

for the remainder crew (ordinary hands) - in this case Pakistani,

Water weighs about 1 metric tonne per cubic metre. But the

they were served spicy food that conformed to Islamic restric-

molecules are loosely linked, and this is what allows these mas119

sive ships to float, which they will do as long as the steel weighs

The crew was rescued.

less than the water it displaces

It didn’t simply bleed into the harbour but broke in two.

(A ship is defined as anything larger than 300 tonnes)

The oceans disregard for the (A not in my backyard mentality places the burden on those less

The first case in history to use international law, and specifically

capable of dealing with the problems of pollution)

the law of the sea, to claim jurisdiction for an act of piracy having nothing to do with the prosecuting country.

Panama consulates manage the documentation and collect reg-

India had the jurisdiction, but India has no penalties under In-

istration fees, Liberia’s registry is managed by a company in Vir-

dian code

ginia, Cambodia’s is managed from South Korea and Bahama’s

It became obvious that rather than imposing high standards that

from the City of London

the law had provided the necessary shelter for a liberated indus-

This instated a severing between ownership and location, that

try to do as it pleased.

was then applied to factories. [In terms of deadweight tonnage, 40% of the entire world fleet is

The Prestige was manned with Filipino AND Romanian crew

registered in Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands.]

It sprang a leak and began to list, The captain radioed for help and turned for La Coruna and the protection of its harbour, but the spanish authorities refused it shelter The sign of governmental impetus and frustration It fought a losing battle in the sea 120

The Dissonance of Things / Logistics: Violence, Empire and Re-

they carry soon become waste too

sistance (Charmaine Chua & co.)

(We can read the ship by its contact with the land, and vice versa, you can understand the land by its relation with the ship)

The logistics-based flattening of the natural world.

International waters have no sovereignty, ergo is "Terra nullius"

The internet requires certain physical infrastructures. Shipping

as no state controls it. [Just like Australia, but we know how that

is exemplary of human reliance on environmental factors. In


the Information Age ‘logistics’ depicts the sea as an infrastructural surface. Those who work on the sea have a very different understanding of it. Yet even those who live with the affective

Part1: The Slow Boat to China / Charmaine Chua

qualities of the sea can easily forget the dangers of oversimplifying the natural world...

Onshore components: Forklifts, spreaders, and trucks with emp-

The affective qualities of the ocean remind those who live with

ty chassis, which sweep past in well-oiled synchrony

it of the Logistics is the management of the circulation of mate-

massive gantry cranes. [Gangway, workers]

rials and ideas through the supply chain (including the military

Across the world’s ocean, 1.5 million invisible seafarers toil

and the corporate supply chain). It has become one of the cen-

on three to nine month contracts to bind the world together

tral disciplines organizing imperialism.

through trade, though they remain, for the most part, isolated

Border security as a threat to supply chains.

in their cabins and mess rooms, retained on precarious short-

Prevalence of non-citizens as labourers in the Arabian peninsula

term contracts, and kept away from their families – indeed, from most of the world.

Waste; the ships become waste, they produce waste. The things

Until the mid-nineteenth century, the supercargo was the sec121

ond most important person on the ship, next only to the cap-

been prohibited on Evergreen ships. (The captain’s small acts of

tain. This person was employed to oversee the cargo, manage all


merchandise, and sell it in port. Today, the position has become almost obsolete in a shipping industry ruled by complex me-

The Ship

ga-structural frameworks running large datasets through com-

Post-Panamax carriers such as the Ever Cthulhu – ships that

puters in a clerical office, which ensure a continuous circulation

exceed the maximum dimension that can fit in the Panama

of freight between sites of production and major consumption

canal – comprise 16% of the world’s fleet, but carry more than

markets. Which parties transport, receive, and sell the freight

45% of seaborne goods. While maritime shipping companies

has been determined well before stowage begins.

endeavor to use the largest container ships possible in order to

Even ships as large as these require very little human labor: a

benefit from economies of scale, however, port infrastructure

few seamen to navigate, engineers to monitor the ship’s internal

and equipment has not always been able to expand commen-

workings, others to keep watch, clean, fit, change the oil.

surate with the needs of these vessels: deepened harbors, faster

Cutting labor costs by using the enhanced mobility of labor to

loading and unloading times, better intermodal infrastructure,

shift work to third parties, erecting cruel hierarchies in both

and skilled labor that can keep apace with rapidly changing port

their Chinese factories and U.S. stores.

machinery are all demanded, but the large capital investment

Seafaring work is an endeavor practically invisible to all of us

required to perform these tasks has posed severe limitations to

who benefit from the toil of sailors, and remains one of the most

the unmitigated expansion of ship sizes.

contingent, yet internationally diverse forms of labor.

Container ships are monuments that move, and 100, 000 of them

For the special occasion, he has even gone on shore and brought

ply the oceans at any given moment.

back a 2-litre bottle of whiskey, even though hard liquor has now

“the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that 122

exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is

be expected in the logistics industry.

given over to the infinity of the sea…the boat has not only been

Along the coast, ports and berths have been choked with vessels

for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present,

in every terminal, and waiting ships have crowded into anchor-

the great instrument of economic development, but has been

ages for days in far higher numbers than the captain has ever

simultaneously the greatest reserve of imagination.” Foucault /

seen. Imagine the ripple effects of all this congestion… those

Of Other Spaces

backlogs reverberate outward in unfathomable ways, affecting

In comparison to its mammoth exterior, the ship’s interior feels

ships’ travel times to other ports around the world, trucking

like an office – a quick transition from the mighty to the mun-

rates inland, air freight pricing, rail service delays across the

dane. The hallways are not wide enough for two people to walk

U.S., and the availability of empty containers in China.

abreast; the doors are heavy and swung tightly shut.

Worker The PMA blamed the increasing port congestion on an organised work slowdown by the union, alleging that the ILWU was

Part 2: The Quiet Port is Logistics’ Nightmare

deliberately not dispatching enough gangs to the waterfront. The union vehemently denied this, and countered that the PMA

Fog, radar, avoiding ships via yellow blips on a screen

was deliberately mounting a smear campaign against them by

Mooring lines; six ropes, 3 inches in diameter and 300 meters

cutting the number of workers at terminals and cancelling criti-

long, made of thick woven plastic, being tossed ten stories down

cal night shifts that would speed the cargo operations.

and across a stretch of water. Hauled over bollards.

The deplorable working conditions of truck drivers who cannot

Logistics’ Nightmare

make a living wage has led to a shortage of a port-wide truck-

Traffic jam on the ocean. Regularity, it turns out, can no longer

ing pool, leading to personnel shortages that have slowed down 123

the delivery of containers to distribution centres inland. Railcar

aragua… and there are plans afoot to expand the Suez canal as

delays have slowed the movement of containers from docks to


more distant locations. These setbacks have led to container ter-

There is an odd, god-like desire to manipulate space in all of

minals reaching their storage capacities, but these factors barely

this, terraforming land to create new terminals and ports in

scratch the surface of the current logistics crisis.

some places, blowing up islands to make way for ships in others,

Infrastructure toward capital

slicing land open to create waterways, letting the earth’s open

“the thing is that with bigger ships, the number of ports you can

sores bleed at massive costs to human and animal habitats, all

call at are becoming lesser and lesser”.

for the faster transaction time.

Main Channel Deepening Project that lowered basin depths

Massive infrastructural developments chase giant ships, and

from 45 to 53-feet to handle the introduction of larger vessels.

ports have come to epitomise the intensification and expansion

Hundreds of cranes are being raised by as much as 30 feet to

of capital’s supply lines in their physical congealing of sover-

work the latest generation of mega-ships. And $1 billion has

eignty and capitalism.

been dedicated towards replacing the port of Long Beach’s

“Time and space rendered abstract under the impact of com-

Gerald Desmond Bridge to accommodate the larger ships that

modity exchange are marked by homogeneity, continuity and

pass underneath it. All ports fear being replaced by some other

emptiness of all natural and material content, visible or invisi-

quicker passage, so they invest billions to remain competitive.

ble (e.g. air). The exchange abstraction excludes everything that

With the much-anticipated opening of the newly expanded Pan-

makes up history, human and even natural history. The entire

ama Canal in 2016, the west coast is scrambling to ensure that

empirical reality of facts, events and description by which one

ships will not be rerouted to the east coast ports. (There is also

moment and locality of time and space is distinguished from

work underway to construct another canal, cutting through Nic-

one another is wiped out. Time and space assume thereby that 124

character of absolute historical timelessness and universality

highly uneven economic and political domains. In other words,

which must mark the exchange abstraction as a whole and each

in order for the supply chain to flourish as a locus for profit max-

of its feature.” Sohn-Rethels’ description of abstract space-time

imization, logistics must be managed as a totality, or not at all.

in *Intellectual and Manual Labour*: (48-49)

The upshot of all this is that since sites of production can always

The natural and material content then become the threads that,

be moved elsewhere, hyper-exploiting different sets of largely

when pulled at, can contribute to the unravelling of vast net-

unorganized workers in the global south and undermining la-

works (just like the accident).

bour’s bargaining power in the global north, the logistics revolution is not only concerned with the movement of commodities,

‘Just-in-time’ networks

but also plays a critical role in controlling and undermining la-

The spectacle of the technical sublime meets its other in week-

bour power.

long traffic jams on the Pacific Ocean. To attribute larger structural problems to ‘challenges related to In her brilliant The Deadly Life of Logistics, Deborah Cowen

the labour force’, as the PMA’s last annual report alleged, has in

shows us that one of the most powerful transformations of the

fact allowed shipping companies to generate the appearance of

logistics revolution was that it allowed contemporary capital-

crisis so as to garner support from both the public and politi-

ism to assume the form of the supply chain, ordered not by the

cians, driving the public’s ire instead towards those workers who

piecemeal management of individual firms, but by spatio-tem-

move the world’s goods.

poral logics that disaggregate the component parts of produc-

Stacking cranes

tion and distribution so as to bring them back together within

For terminal handlers and shipping companies, if automation

a complex spatial arrangement that stretches the factory across

can move cargo at least as efficiently as manual labour but at a 125

fraction of the cost of high-priced longshore labour, terminals

the name of national security.

in the U.S. will eventually choose to replace humans with ma-

Gantry crane drivers (specific skill-set / in short supply)

chines. Under this rubric, humans are the unreliable ‘challenge’

In the planetary scope of global supply chains, however, auto-

whose removal will allow managers to regulate the efficiency of

mation and technological innovation have not only restructured

container transport.

the labour force, but brought it into new geopolitical relation. Shipping companies are beginning to offshore the cognitive work

For logistics, automation is stability, and therefore the threat of

of clerical planning (e.g. plotting the precise algorithms which

labour disruption, rather than read as an exercise of fundamen-

determine which containers go where on a ship, and when), sep-

tal democracy, is seen in economic terms as an ‘inefficiency’.

arating it by oceans from the manual labour of crane driving and

The use of labour disruptions as a means to quantify attacks on

intermodal transport, such that a clerical worker in Shenzhen

the supply chain follows directly from the prior move of posit-

might create the loading plan for a ship in Los Angeles, a captain

ing global trade as vital to national security. It allows for the ex-

on a ship receives directives from both the charterer in Germany

changeability of radically different acts and actors, which have

and the shipping company in Taiwan, and so on and so forth.

in common only the threat they pose to smooth circulation. A legal act asserting workplace democracy, when viewed through

The logistical chain has capitalised on work simplification and

the lens of supply chain security, is not just like an attack, it is an

a division of labour which, as Adam Smith described long ago,

attack on the integrity of flows. (Deadly Life of Logistics, p. 80)

separates conception from execution, substantially monopolising cognitive labour within the hands of specialists while rele-

Where smooth flow is king, even democratic contestation and

gating relatively unskilled labour to manual, routinised work.

political intervention can be read as a threat to be eliminated in

On the other, these technologies have also brought into relation 126

previously disparate and unconnected parts of the supply chain

with a throbbing, pulsating, machinic hum.

into one highly integrated (though nevertheless uneven) system at an unseen scale, constituting “the very possibility for the

When you are surrounded by nothing but this limitless, shift-

transnational intermodal integration of diverse forms of work

ing, liquid expanse, stretching in all directions for days before

and infrastructures” (Cowen, p. 113).

hitting land, all distance becomes incalculable. (things like spit

a new form of international solidarity may seem optimistic, I

become measures of distance).

have seen how easily rifts between various groups of workers

For centuries, humans have drawn rhumb lines, navigational

can arise.

routes, and territorial markers across the ocean’s surface, deign-

Port superintendent, chief mate

ing to create roads and map sovereign claims onto inconstant, liquid matter. Yet… the shifting, turbulent, evasive ontology of the wet ocean contravenes the very idea of a stability-conferring

Part 3: Landlessness and Life of Seamen

foundation. On the open sea, Schmitt reminds us, there are “no limits, no

The endless task of the seaman: fighting against perpetual rust.

boundaries, no consecrated sites, no sacred orientations, no


law, and no property” – in short, none of the landlocked frame-

Today, the ship has been awash in the sounds of grinding, scrap-

works through which we might make sense of social and spatial

ing, hammering and drilling, scraping rust off and painting over


it in an endless cycle that repeats itself every two months. All of

[Understanding] a mode of circulation (that) relies precisely on

this is set to the background soundtrack of an endlessly roar-

the fluidity of the oceans to project extraterritorial power across

ing engine that suffuses the air and shakes the accommodations

vast distances [through the quotidian life on the ship] 127

[Cesare Casarino] Oceanic trade and navigation gave rise to a

Reefer (refrigerated cargo)

maritime working class that not only provided “the prototype of

While on the outbound journey from China to the US, ships are

the associative and organised model of wage labour that was to

stuffed with manufactured goods being brought to American

become dominant under industrial capitalism”, but also antici-

shelves, but in the other direction, most of what travels east is,

pated the multinational, multilingual, and multiracial constitu-

the labour theorist Sergio Bologna has noted, “shit and air” –

tion of labour that so characterises the global political economy

waste products and empty containers.

of our present.

The labour of the seaman, subject to the blurred boundaries

oceanic labour is labour that experiences a sort of double alien-

between production and circulation rendered by the logistics

ation under circulatory capital: while in the classic Marxist for-

revolution, seems in this sense to be quite literally awash in a

mulation, alienation in the space of the factory dispossesses

sea of flows.

workers of the means of production, workers on container ships

A container ship’s crew is split into two departments: the deck

are differentiated from this labour pool in that the spaces they

department works all the jobs above the hull in often debilitat-

occupy are not spaces of production, but of circulation.

ing weather conditions, scrubbing, cleaning, wiping, painting,

Containers, in their modular, block-like, homogeneous forms,

de-rusting, and mooring the ship in the fore and aft when it

wall off the goods being transported from those bodies trans-

is coming into harbour. Underneath, in the cavernous engine

porting them. The container form, then, renders the contain-

room that reaches eight stories below deck, the engine depart-

erized commodity utterly illegible to the workers charged with

ment toils in stultifying heat and to the overwhelming roar of

guarding and ensuring their movement.

the ship’s engine.

AB (Able Bodied Seaman), 2nd mate, 3rd mate, Longshoremen,

Oiler, HFO (heavy fuel oil)

OS (ordinary seaman)

After the glamor of shipbuilding, after the enthralling rush of 128

invention and innovation, maintenance is the leftover, dirty,

steps to freedom,” says Vern as we scrub rust off the deck’s floor

dangerous but dull work left to the maritime working class. As

on one quiet day at sea, “and 54 steps to prison.”

if caught between immense parentheses, the seaman cannot

The seafaring market is competitive and contingent, built on

claim to have built this world, only to help move it back and

short-term 6-month contracts that may or may not be renewed

forth, and back again.

by the crewing company, depending on performance reviews

Teddy bears and computer parts, shit and air, revolve around

To stay afloat, most seamen have to attend trainings to renew

the earth because of the toil of sailors who care not why they are

their various certificates or enroll in courses to gain new skills

there – only that they will be home soon.

– watchkeeping, quarter mastering, medical training – the fees for which must come out of their own pocket. On board, longing to be home. At home, cannot enjoy.

Part 4: In Non-Places, No One Can Hear You Cry

Bosun, wiper (wiping up oil) he company that manages the Ever Cthulhu, German-based

Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation – the college de-

shippers NSB Reederei, are to exit the German flag by 2017. NSB

gree a majority of the crew holds.

will move their remaining 38 German flagged ships to flags of

Homesickness is “always there,” manifesting itself in picture

convenience, and with that, will gradually lay off their 486 em-

collages of their families on cabin walls and email communica-

ployees at sea – largely German and European officers, ship me-

tions twice a day.

chanics, and engineers. On sea, no matter whether across the

They will tell you that walking up the gangway with their bag-

Pacific or at port, ships are governed under the nation whose

gage at the start of their contract is the heaviest feeling, and go-

flag they fly – making vessels into, as Rose George has put it,

ing down when the six months are over is the most joyful. “54

“floating chunk[s] of the nation state.” But “flags of convenience,” 129

a label coined by the International Transport Federation in 1948,

glish and come cheap.

allow these floating chunks to slip in and out of different sover-

[Filipino] cities and towns choked with maritime institutes and

eign regulations, solving the ‘problem’ of having to adhere to the

training centers

costly standards of democratic and worker rights in the global

Men line up for days at a time at crewing booths hoping to get

north. Flags of convenience designate open registries that allow

a job

companies based in one nation to flag their ships ‘out’ to coun-

But today, even Filipino labor has come under threat: NSB has

tries with lower taxes, crew salary standards, and labor regula-

established maritime schools in Sri Lanka and Shanghai where


labor comes even cheaper, and other companies have been fol-

Today, 68 percent of ships fly a flag that does not belong to the

lowing suit.

country of their owner’s origin or residence – and the require-

Quite different from other attempted spatial fixes for crises of

ments of establishing a “genuine link” between flag nation and

profitability, however, the geographical relocation of maritime

shipping company (a requirement of the UN Law of the Sea) are

labor pools does not require heavy fixed capital outlays from in-

not more than sustaining an office and a mailbox in a distant

vestment in costly and immobile infrastructure and machinery.

land such as Liberia, Monrovia, or Panama- often countries torn

Schools and training centers can be set up (and moved) at rela-

apart by colonial expropriation. NSB, currently the largest oper-

tively small costs, with large payoffs in the availability of cheap

ator of German-flagged vessels, will by the end of 2017 restock

maritime labor they churn out.

its depleted European officer pool with Filipinos, who command

Filipinos and Europeans dining separately

half the European wage.

what anthropologist Marc Augé has called the “non-place”: a

Filipino seafarers have been in high demand – constituting al-

“dense network of means of transport which are also inhabited

most 40% of all crews worldwide – because they speak good En-

spaces” where no organic social life is possible, “a world thus 130

surrendered to solitary individuality, to the fleeting, the tempo-

the structure of capitalism rather than exogenous to it.

rary and the ephemeral.

Workers do not necessarily identify primarily as workers: that is,

Characterized by their transitory nature and corresponding so-

the social fields which structure the imaginations of seamen are

cial emptiness, non-places always gesture to a reality or destina-

a complex interweaving of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender,

tion somewhere else.

and so forth – not necessarily structured around the category of

Logistics, as an industry invested in smoothing out the world’s

abstract labor.

surface, “pulverizes” and flattens space to facilitate (to the extent

What Anna Tsing has termed “superexploitation”: “Exploitation

it is possible) the ceaseless circulation of money, commodities,

that depends on so-called noneconomic factors such as gender,

and bodies.

race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexuality, age, and citizen-

Flattening produces all objects – even people – as fungible com-

ship status…exploitation greater than might be expected from

modities. In a recent article, Cuppini, Frapporti and Pirone have

general economic principles.”

argued that this subjectivation of people as slaves bears striking

Tsing explains that as supply chains “tap and vitalize perfor-

similarities to the contemporary logistical mode, which “works

mances of noneconomic features of identity,” labor is “recruit-

to transform the logistics laborer into something like a drudge,

ed and motivated by these performances”: Workers establish

and android, a working machine.”

their economic performance through performances of the very

as Lisa Lowe argues, “capital has maximized its profits not by

factors that establish their superexploitation: gender, race, eth-

rendering labor ‘abstract’ but precisely through the social pro-

nicity, and so forth… A day laborer must perform brawn and

duction of ‘difference’… marked by race, nation, geographical

availability; a prostitute must perform sexual charm. These per-

origin, and gender” (emphasis mine). Markers of identity other-

formances bring them contracts and make it difficult for them

wise regarded as non-economic are, in other words, essential to

to negotiate the wage outside niches for gender, sexuality, and 131

race…Diversity, with all its promise and perils, enters the struc-

air). The exchange abstraction excludes everything that makes

ture of supply chain capitalism through this mechanism.

up history, human and even natural history. The entire empiri-

The industry relies on the uneven distribution of waged work to

cal reality of facts, events and description by which one moment

pay them less, keep them on ships longer, withhold long-term

and locality of time and space is distinguished from one another

contracts — and that their willingness to do this alone makes

is wiped out.

them valuable. “the inability of workers to negotiate the wage in the manner

Part 5: The Chinese Logistical Sublime and Its Wasted Remains

imagined in much of both Marxist and neo-classical economics:

“We cannot think of a time that is oceanless Or of an ocean not

that is, as abstract ‘labor,’ without the obstacles of these ‘cultural’

littered with wastage” (T. S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages”)


16 hours in port – aided by gantry cranes larger than I have ever

The electrician, fitter, and many others have told me that they

seen – allowed not more than a hasty trip to the city center for

are saving a portion of their wages every month to invest, hop-

a dinner of mushroom and chive dumplings (desperately wel-

ing to be able to quit the seafaring life and start a small business

comed after a six-week parade of meat and potatoes), before we

at home. “A small farm,” Montez imagines. “Maybe a video game

set sail again for Hong Kong. Now, after a mere 15 hours there,

arcade” thinks another. “Put it back into my machine shop,” says

we are in Kaohsiung once more. Tonight we leave for Taipei with

the fitter.

four different currencies in my pocket and my head swirling

Sohn-Rethel describes this abstraction* as such:

from switching back and forth between two different tongue.

Time and space rendered abstract under the impact of commod-

The port handled its 100 millionth TEU in 2013, and in 2007 be-

ity exchange are marked by homogeneity, continuity and empti-

came the first port in the world to reach an annual throughput

ness of all natural and material content, visible or invisible (e.g.

exceeding 10 million TEUs. All ports race to become number 132

one, and the cities that conspire around them become affluent

Recent US environmental regulations prohibited the release of

reflections of this competition.

these wastes into the 24-mile coastal waters off the US shoreline.

Situated on the edges of the city yet walled off from the city’s

“Grey water” – the collected dirty liquid from laundry machines

eyes, the port declares its success by proxy in ‘key performance

and shower stalls, was nearing capacity in the tanks, so the laun-

indicators’ and throughput handling statistics, though few are

dry room had to close. Sewage could not be disposed, and food

there to watch it happen.

waste, biodegradable and otherwise dumped into the ocean ev-

Outside, on the “shore side” of a ship at berth, one beholds the

ery three days, was gathering the smell of rot and decay into

fearsome fury of cargo soaring into the sky and being placed on

corners of the deck. “Apparently,” said the chief mate, “the US

an endless rumble of trucks. But a walk around the other side

does not want to shit where it eats.” – and so it protects its waters

of the ship to its “sea side,” where starboard faces the quieter

from waste, making the world’s ocean into its toilet bowl.

harbor waters, quickly reveals a different kind of marketplace.

the US may have alleviated the blight of pollution in US terri-

An entire industry has risen to ‘manage’ the mass metabolism of

torial waters (itself somewhat of an oxymoronic term), but this

waste that constantly threatens to overwhelm the ship, a grand

only means that that garbage is disposed of somewhere else –

string of waste workers, small businessmen, garbage disposal

received, recycled, cleaned, and ingested by populations unable

trucks, and sludge barges that emerge from the peripheries of

to escape from its detritus.

the port to help the ship clear its bowels after its weeks at sea. On

the inequalities of the global economy: boxes full of garbage,

Ever Cthulhu’sstarboard, a constant supply of barges and clean-

wastepaper and scrap travel east and are recycled to keep Chi-

ing operators come alongside the vessel in the afternoon, tasked

na’s manufacturing and packaging industries humming, while

with pumping dirty fuel out of tanks, collecting mountains of

those same containers travel back west with goods made cheap

accumulated garbage and scrap, and cleaning out used pipes.

by indentured labor – goods soon to be discarded in a yawning 133

hole and brought back east again not long after they are pur-

of Tsing Tao beer.

chased: computer chips, 6 month-old iPhones declared irrele-

Acting as society’s “external margin” – that which it constantly

vant upon the release of newer models, barely sturdy furniture,

desires to cast out – the problem of waste valorizes “a certain

dollhouses, plastic utensils, etc. etc., the whole rejected flotsam

conception of the modern subject” who, in productively and

and jetsam of our ravenous, bulimic society in giant landfills,

fruitfully mixing his labor with the land, proves himself able to

representing a grand dialectical tussle between value and its an-

engage and overcome the problem of wastage.


In this particularly Lockean narrative, the lack of propensity

Not only are a ship’s eastbound containers laden with refuse and

to accumulate wealth denotes a moral inferiority – a category

scrap; the endlessly traveling ship is itself a massive waste-pro-

encompassing those who waste and who let the land lie fallow


(notably, this serves as Locke’s justification for the dispossession

I watched as it lifted a pipe by crane onto the ship’s deck, and

of Native American land by English settlers).

pumped 75 tons of sludge from the engine room’s tanks into the

The travels and perils of waste give us a ‘minor’ history of capi-

barge waiting below. The business of sludge management is “so

talist surplus accumulation.

lucrative”, the chief engineer says, that while companies in the

Waste, then, is a material excess that is unruly and improper:

EU charge shippers for its disposal, in China, companies pur-

disordered matter, or matter out of place…It is also the specter

chase this black, sticky mess. When put through a refining pro-

that haunts the modern notion of ‘value’.

cess, half of this sludge is usable as fuel; the other half is burned

Gidwani and Reddy show that in engaging ‘waste’ as an enemy

off in a waste plant. So profitable is this business that after they

to be conquered and overcome, capitalist surplus circulates

were done with the job, the company sent gifts: the Chief Engi-

through a complex network of recalcitrant human and non-

neer received a few beautiful calendars, and the crew ten boxes

human connections, in the process bringing the production of 134

value into unexpected confrontation with its simultaneous pro-

“New cargo is better than old cargo. Old containers, rubbish,

duction of waste.

you throw. New containers, they work much better. So? I accept.

The Ever Cthulhu, under recent international regulations to

This is life.”

conform to energy efficiency standards, has been undergoing a

Recognizing capital’s tendency to eliminate its unwanted com-

series of conversions to prepare for the energy shift from heavy

ponents, Adem’s metaphor aptly aligns material waste with

fuel oil to diesel consumption.

wasted life. As a generalized social situation of precarity, the

HFO contains traces of mercury, aluminum, and other toxic

idea of “wasted lives” – a term Zygmunt Bauman uses to refer


to the increasing economic redundancy of young people in core

As Gidwani and Reddy argue, one of the tendencies of the urban

capitalist countries

present, deeply engaged with the annexation of waste, has been

a whole other narrative for logistical life: one that looks for the

“the emergence of a strange geography of encounters and con-

afterlives of capitalist surplus in the ash and filth that it churns

tact zones within which differences – but also new forms of ‘in-

out in its path of destruction. Where mammoth logistical econ-

timacy’ between the urban middle class and urban underclass

omies rise, so too do its unruly remainders.

are being produced.”

“The Senate celebrates the remarkable contributions of Mal-

lashers, foremen, pilots, welders, watch salesmen, safety inspec-

colm P. McLean to the development of a new era of trade and

tors, and cleaners — a motley crew of the logistical supply chain,

commerce in the United States through the containerization of

a whole jumbled mass of labor, some regarded as the refuse and

cargo [and] … recognizes the the crucial role that containeriza-

scum of the working classes, others skilled elites.

tion has played in the modernization of shipping practices, and

capital is involved in the systemic production of entirely eco-

the economy of the United States…” – United States of America

nomically redundant populations.

Congressional Record Proceedings and Debates of the 109th 135

Logistics and Opposition / Alberto Toscano

great exertion and utmost speed the metropolis barely manages to remain in the same position.’8 The metropolis has the inten-

Fifty years ago, Lewis Mumford, writing in The City in History

sification and expansion of supply lines as its precondition, and

of the catastrophic propensities of the contemporary metropolis

logistics becomes its primary concern, its foremost product,

– what he elegantly called 'the aimless giantism of the whole' –

and the basic determinant of its power:

pointed to the pivotal role of the growing possibilities of supply

The metropolis is in fact a processing centre, in which a vast va-

to the 'insensate agglomeration of populations' in exponentially

riety of goods, material and spiritual, is mechanically sorted and

expanding cities, and their relations to the ‘tentacular bureau-

reduced to a limited number of standardized articles, uniformly

cracies’ that controlled such flows of goods.

packaged, and distributed through controlled channels to their

During the 19th century, as populations heaped further into a

destination, bearing the approved metropolitan label. ‘Process-

few great centres, they were forced to rely more fully on distant

ing’ has now become the chief form of metropolitan control.9

sources of supply: to widen the basis of supplies and to protect

[Hito Steyerl - Duty Free Art]

the ‘life-line’ that connects the source with the voracious mouth of the metropolis, became the function of army and navy. In so far as the metropolis, by fair means or foul, is able to control distant sources of food and raw materials, the growth of the capital

In the Wake / Christina Sharpe

can proceed indefinitely. Wake: the track left on the water’s surface by a ship; the disturThe organisational and energetic resources required to repro-

bance caused by a body swimming or moved, in water; it is the

duce the metropolis are formidable: ‘like Alice's red queen, by

air currents behind a body in flight; a region of disturbed flow. 136

Capitalism and the Sea: Sovereignty, Territory and Appropri-

sea, especially with industrial capital’s rapid transformation of

ation in the Global Ocean / Liam Campling, Alejandro Colas

the oceans through global warming for instance, while the sea has facilitated the speeding up of the global capitalist circuit

'Terraqueous territoriality'

since the seventeenth century.

Capital accumulation, it is argued here, seeks to territorialise

Contradictions in capital’s attempt at transcending the land–

the sea through forms of sovereignty and modes of appropria-

sea distinction… EEZs, the system of open registries (or ‘flags

tion drawn from experiences on land, but in doing so encoun-

of convenience’), and multilateral counter-piracy initiatives as

ters particular tensions thereby generating distinctive spatial

characteristic instances of capitalist states and firms seeking to


transcend or sublate the geo-physical difference between firm

The oceans have acted not just as a flat plane of transit – a great

land and fluid sea.

highway and wide common, (from Alfred Thayer Mahan) but

The sea is a place where social relations interact unevenly with

also as a lucrative location for the extraction of natural resourc-

natural forces to generate often contingent and unexpected out-

es and crucial theatre of geopolitical rivalry and domination


(both in the high seas and in coastal waters).

The very material geo-physical attributes of the sea make it more

The distinctly capitalist articulation of sovereignty, territory and

resistant than land to being transformed into a ‘second nature’

appropriation in the capture and coding of maritime space and

one school of thought – most clearly associated to the work of

how environmental conditions matter to these incursions of

Fernand Braudel – capitalism is a world-system emerging out of


maritime trade during the long sixteenth century (1450-1650),

The advent of capitalism - a distinctive mode of social reproduc-

premised on the accumulation of mercantile wealth in seaports

tion, has arguably intensified the relationship between land and

like Venice, Genoa, Amsterdam and London. 137

In the specific relation between land and sea, commercial capi-

telegraphy, deepened the integration between the circuits of

talism (Banaji, 2016) valorised the oceans principally as a trade

production, trade and credit.

route – a surface that accelerates the circulation of precious commodities, and channels access to distant markets. The sea

The combination of these socio-economic and political activi-

also acted as a venue for the trade in enslaved humans.

ties in and about the sea has generated a particularly capitalist

Lauren Benton (2010) - The maritime basis of commercial cap-

form of terraqueousness. It is characterised by an attempt to

italism challenged any straightforward application of exclusive

harness the constant circulation of ‘value in motion’ to the need

sovereign territoriality, creating overseas enclaves, corridors

of investing in fixed logistical and social infrastructure that can

and brackish zones characterised by variegated, overlapping

facilitate and smoothen such mobility.

and plural legal geographies which in turn often influenced the organisation of sovereignty, territory and appropriation on land

The irreducibly geo-physical attributes of earth and water com-

(the City of London’s continued operation as a tax-haven ‘city

plicate any attempt at simply demarcating the sea along terres-

within a city’ is a good example of this).

trial lines that characterise the exercise of state sovereignty and accumulation of capital on land. These tensions and contradic-

The advent of industrial capitalism gave such exchange and mo-

tions convey the form of terraqueous territoriality: a distinctive-

bility a fresh impetus as the sea itself became both driver and

ly capitalist articulation of sovereignty, territory and appropri-

site for the generalised production of value (ship building and

ation which tries to transcend the land-sea dualism though a

timber and steel industries, the mass employment of seafarers

periodic enclosure and parcelisation of the sea, but which con-

with disposable incomes, industrial fishing and whaling, min-

stantly encounters in the geo-physical force of the ocean a seem-

eral extraction) and, through technologies like refrigeration or

ingly insurmountable obstacle that often resolves itself in the 138

creation of amphibious and zonal organisations of space such

incremental but very deliberate series of capitalist strategies to

as the EEZ, the High Risk Zone or indeed the ship flying a ‘flag

avoid business tax and to bypass years of seafarers’ struggle to

of convenience’.

institutionalise decent pay and working conditions. The legal innovation of the modern FOC originated in Panama.

The codification of the EEZ under UNCLOS III in 1982... was the single greatest enclosure in human history. EEZs cover 35 per-

‘Fiscally squeezed post-colonial countries’

cent of the total area of the seas.

it is a misconception to suggest there is no regulation in the

So long as the principles of freedom of navigation and innocent

shipping industry – as we shall see, FOC ships remain subject to

passage for the world’s largest fleets are upheld, coastal states

(inter-)state regulation and political contestation, including that

can do with their marine resources as they please.

initiated by trade unions

The EEZ represents one such attempt at marrying unfettered

(Corporate Sovereignty - 2013) when a sovereign is outside its

mobility and legal appropriation, albeit with the sea in this

territorial limits and meets another sovereign, the potential con-

instance serving as a laboratory in the experimentation with

flict of laws that ensues is mediated by the concept of comity,

forms of overlapping governance that have subsequently been

wherein deference or courtesy is show between sovereigns.

applied on land.

In this way, the law of the flag state establishes borders and territorialises space on board the boat even when steaming through

‘Frictionless accumulation’

another state’s sovereign waters. ‘The story of comity’ Barkan

By 2014, the owners of well over 70 percent by deadweight ton-

suggests, ‘explains how companies [including shipping firms]

nage of the world fleet chose to use flags other than their own.

carved out legal autonomy by inhabiting the negative spaces of 139

the international state system’.

and has a corollary – in the isolation, precariousness and vul-

Even when falling under another state’s ‘static’ domain of sov-

nerability of fishers and seafarers working on FOC ships at sea.

ereign rights in an EEZ, the principle of comity means that the

(ethnic segmentation of the workforce, strict labour discipline,

boat owner/captain are subject principally to the regulations of

repetitive tasks, combination of workplace and lifeworld in a

the flag state (at least in regard to labour standards on the boat).

single confined space.)

The FOC regime underwrites all the surface speed, flexibility and mobility privileged by capital whilst condemning those who

Similarly, the open registry ship carries the jurisdiction of its

work and live in the ship’s lower quarters to confinement, regi-

purchased sovereignty in the FOC. Yet, while on the high seas,

mentation and domination.

the ship is also a space within a space, moving the economic activity within its hull across a limitless surface. Workers pro-

The motley crews on contemporary FOC vessels form part of a

ducing value within and across these spaces, on the other hand,

much longer history of mobile hierarchies on ships, leading to

are subject to an altogether narrower territoriality – one defined

all sorts of contradictory spatial forms onshore: from the poly-

by the contained, restricted and deeply hierarchical workplace

glot and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods of port towns to the legal

that is the factory ship.

challenges posed by the status of foreign seafarers resident in metropolitan lands.

The contemporary attempt at policing the flowing sea from fixed land thus generates new imperial geographies as counter-pira-

The ‘lascar’

cy campaigns re-colonise older imperial outposts and recharge

The integrated network of legal, bureaucratic and market power

these locations with the mission of rendering the unruly seas

sustaining the open registry regime from land thus contrasts –

stable and secure. Moreover, for all their high-tech attempts at 140

delimiting the sea as authorities try to do on land, the distinctive geo-physical features of the ocean remain stubbornly resistant to governance regimes seeking to guarantee a 24/7, 365-days a year passage through the perilous waters of the Gulf of Aden. The sea is both a crucial site for the valorisation of capital – be it through extraction or transport – and a major bio-physical obstacle to its reproduction. attempting in the process to ‘flatten’ the geophysical division between solid ground and fluid water.


Mare Magnum: Urbanisation of Land and Sea / Ross Exo Adams

wholly new spatiality to appear whose intricate geographies we are still only beginning to grasp: urbanisation.

‘extended urbanisation’ by Neil Brenner (2011; 2013) and Chris-

It is circulation that opens up a historical geography of power

tian Schmid (2011), traces an image of the urban through net-

less interested in the essentialised qualities of land or sea, but

works of circulation of oil, commodities and data that run across

rather in the abstract logics of modern power that cut across

seabeds and over the sea surface, encircling the planet’s oceans


with threads of infrastructural fluidity. Cerda’s urbe was: a generic grid of human habitation predicated Indeed, privileging a logic of circulation over enclosure, Cheva-

on and enabling limitless circulation (a principal he called ‘vial-

lier’s world organized by networks resulted less in the disappear-

idad’) and its perpetual self-expansion (‘urbanización’).

ance of territory than in its adaptation to a new set of demands,

joining humanity in the shared interest in infrastructures of in-

allowing it to be reimagined as a technology useful for organis-

ternational exchange.

ing a borderless space, the idealised extents of which would be

transcribing them all as a smooth, regularised order distin-

the globe itself. Shifting the emphasis of territory from the bor-

guished only by spaces of rest and movement;

der to the corridor, Chevalier’s geography enabled the simulta-

for Cerdá, the mutual exchange of services between any two

neous measurement and control of space across multiple scales,

vessels at sea constituted a fundamental urbe, leading him to

opening up a space that could be ordered according to a single

theorise a distinction between what he called urbes acuáticas

logic applied to all scales at once. And it is precisely for this rea-

and urbes terrestres (Cerdá 1867: 202–7).

son that the shift to a corridor-based, maritime geography in-

Ocean-space seems to endow the urban with a boundless vital-

spired by the idea of the network would lay the foundations for a

ity: from his early narrations of this space—romanticised as a 142

‘vast swirling maremagnum of people, of things, of interests of

the ‘artificial’ logic of territorial division and closure, and that

every sort’ (Cerdá 1867: 29)—to his utopian historicisation of it,

was based instead on hierarchies of fluid movement, extending

where ‘Urbanisation […] has always marched forward along the

from the scale of architecture to that of the planet

path of its perfection, on which the Almighty chose not to set

a single terrestrial polity (a ‘vast country on the sea’), one that

limits as he had done for the waves of the Ocean’ (Cerdá 1867:

imagines a world ordered by a globally extensive hierarchy of

49–50). That the ocean for Cerdá could be urbanised was not

nested scales of networks of circulation.

simply a rhetorical extreme of his spatial imaginary: it was the

Modern territory was developed in the epistemological frame of

very expression of the fluid space of the urban constituted by

raison d’État—a form of knowledge in which state power would

perpetual, rhythmic motion and expansion in all directions.

be discovered to reside increasingly in the measurement and

If ocean-space since the sixteenth century had been represent-

movement of wealth. As such, its calculations, measurements

ed as a contested space of traffic, by the nineteenth century the

and structures of control elevated the status of traffic and the

technological efforts to smooth it into a machinic space of cap-

infrastructures, techniques and technologies that would enable

italist circulation would share a clear affinity with Chevalier’s

it. More broadly, the concept of circulation offered a scientific


means by which the interior spaces of territory could be understood, quantified and spatially disciplined, thus producing

Chevalier held that nations organised around networks could

a mechanism by which to achieve absolute control, calculation

achieve a state of perpetual peace through the natural interstate

and measurement.

interdependencies that would arise with the unlimited circulation of goods and finance that a network space would enable.

(France) boulevards, carrefours, étoiles and rond-points would

It was a spatiality that emerged with a forceful indifference to

carve the landscape into baroque geometries and corridors of 143

movement—abstract infrastructures that would discipline the

If land appropriation lay at the basis of the territorial power of

lands into quantifiable spaces of production and connect it with

the state, sea appropriation would take the form of commercial

measurable, controlled lines of circulation. Over the course of

trade routes and colonial shipping lanes. Its space was one of

the eighteenth century, the engineers of the Ponts et Chaussées

movement, a realm of free, reciprocating traffic. For this reason,

stood as a crucial technological arm of the state in its construc-

while trade remained a measure of the territorial state’s power,

tion of territory as both a form of knowledge and a coordinated

for England, it was a source of its new global, imperial power.

interior space of circulation.

Space understood from an English perspective could be said to be state space turned inside out which, for that reason could

Treatises such as La metropolitée, ou, De l'êtablissement des

encompass the entire globe. What remained common to both

villes capitales by Alexandre Le Maître (1682) theorised the state

conceptions of space and would span the entirety of the modern

as a space in which cities, towns and villages were to be concen-

world was the dependency of each on the category of traffic. If

trically organised around the capital city and coordinated by a

the roads and highways that crisscrossed the territory of a state

system of infrastructure, depicting the state as a space for the

were a measure of both the space and power of the ‘Body Poli-

efficient circulation of wealth

tique’, on the open sea the movement itself of trade vessels was the direct experience of a universal freedom made possible by

From the end of the sixteenth century until well into the eigh-

England’s ‘open’ oceanic dominion (Schmitt 2006). In this space,

teenth century, circulation, implicit in modernising ideas of sov-

measurable only against an astrological datum, what matters is

ereignty and territory, would unfold over the terrestrial spaces

movement itself: destinations, waypoints, passages and corri-

of Europe, constructing a geography of modern power inscribed

dors. It is a space that, because impossible to mark physically,

in the landscape as geometries of traffic.

would be given to the virtuality of a logic of circulation itself—a 144

logic that we can approximate by the notion network: ‘Authentic

One of the consequences of this utopian spatiality would be an

traffic can only come about with a network that makes a given

implicit indifference between land and sea.

zone accessible, whether as terra cognita or mare cognitum, for

If ocean-space since the sixteenth century had been represent-

routine crossings’ (Sloterdijk 2013: 34).

ed as a contested space of traffic, by the nineteenth century the

While territorial circulation had become both a source of state

technological efforts to smooth it into a machinic space of cap-

power and the result of its heavily securitised enclosure, in En-

italist circulation would share a clear affinity with Chevalier’s

gland, an analogous notion of security would circumscribe not


its territory, but the various circulatory routes of trade that composed England’s world empire outside of it: ‘The English world

The réseau had the effect of liberating circulation from its rigid

began to think in terms of bases and lines of communication’.

relations to both landscape and maritime traffic, giving birth to

rationalise the space of the territory as a geometric space of

a spatial imaginary that could account for both.

measured traffic. The réseau offered a single system of circulation that could coorFor Chevalier, the network literally imprinted on land what had

dinate multiple scalar registers simultaneously, from buildings

conceptually developed in the space and experience of modern

to cities to the networks that would wrap traffic around the entire

power at sea.

planet. By integrating both medical metaphors and hydrological mathematics, the réseau could implicitly justify the ‘insignifi-

embraced an imperial order—an ‘empire of man over things’—

cance’ of state borders by reference to the way that networks of

whose missionary duty was to extend an enlightened order of

blood and nervous tissue unify the functions of the whole or-

circulation and industry to the farthest corners of the earth

ganism precisely by coordinating across individually bounded 145

organs; the direct application of hydrological mathematics, in turn, would provide the technological means by which to constitute order in a world of boundless, regulated circulation. While playing up to maritime ontologies of freedom, openness and mobility, the réseau unwittingly unleashed on land what had always accompanied imperial ocean-space: a logic of security, regulation and control. by building itself as an extendable network, rather than a finite spatial entity (a ‘city’) what results is a hybrid spatiality; the urban emerges as both territory and city while being neither at the same time The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations / Daniel Heller-Roazen (Privateers) (flag of convenience) (piracy) Itinerant sovereignty- ship v. Plane. Sovereignty: plane under the law the space where it is, vs. Ship which carries sovereignty with itself. ‘Agents of the threshold’


Planetary Urbanisation / Neil Brenner & Christian Schmid


The early twentieth century was a period in which large-scale

Planetary urbanisation means, paradoxically, that even spaces

industrial city-regions and suburbanising zones were being rap-

that lie well beyond the traditional city cores and suburban pe-

idly consolidated around the world in close conjunction with

ripheries—from transoceanic shipping lanes, transcontinental

major demographic and socio-economic shifts in the erstwhile

highway and railway networks, and worldwide communications

“countryside.” Consequently, across diverse national contexts

infrastructures to alpine and coastal tourist enclaves, “nature”

and linguistic traditions, the field of twentieth-century urban

parks, offshore financial centres, agro-industrial catchment

studies defined its theoretical categories and research object

zones and erstwhile “natural” spaces such as the world’s oceans,

through a series of explicit or implied geographical contrasts.

deserts, jungles, mountain ranges, tundra, and atmosphere—

Even as debates raged regarding how best to define the speci-

have become integral parts of the worldwide urban fabric.

The end of the “wilderness”

ficity of urban life, the latter was universally demarcated in opposition to a purportedly “non-urban” zone, generally classified as “rural.” 1.

New scales of urbanisation – “urban galaxies”


Blurring of urban territories - increasingly, former “central

functions,”… are being dispersed outwards from historic central city cores, into erstwhile suburbanised spaces 3.

The disintegration of the “hinterland” 147

Five These on Understanding Logistics as Power / Brett Neilson

sion of logistical knowledge, the interlinking of logistics science with computing and software design, and the move from a cost

Logistics is the art and science of managing the mobility of peo-

minimization to a profit maximization approach.

ple and things to achieve economic, communication, and trans-

Practices of measurement, standardization, and calculation de-

port efficiencies.

vised in the military sphere are adapted for civilian purposes

According to historian Martin van Creveld military logistics aris-

that revolutionize business and management practices.

es in the period 1560–1715 as a reaction to what he calls the ‘tyranny of plunder’. As armies became larger in size they found it

But in mainstream management and economic perspectives,

increasingly challenging to live off the land by forcibly obtaining

it was the logistics revolution that smashed the factory walls,

food and other supplies from populations in their vicinity. This

moving productive and value-adding activities well beyond the

condemned them to permanent mobility, making siege warfare

delimited spaces of industrial activity. The feedback of data con-

a difficult proposition. The solution was to supply armies from

cerning transport and supply deeply transformed the world of


production, making it more global in scope and responsive to

But it was in the post-World War II US that logistics strongly

market shifts (Ballou; Cowen). Without such a flow of data there

emerged as an element of business management. The 1960 and

could be no just-in-time adjustments. And without robust logis-

1970s were transformative years. These decades saw the diffu-

tical systems, labor in the poorer regions of the world could not

sion of a system analytics approach to transportation, communi-

be efficiently exploited, making global production processes as

cation, and the spatial organization of the firm, the introduction

inefficient economically as they are currently environmentally.

of the shipping container, the formation of business organiza-

Carl Von Clausewitz / Antoine-Henri de Jomini - Logistics as a

tions and academic programs for the generation and transmis-

military technology. Strategy vs. tactics. 148

For de Certeau, strategy is ‘the calculation (or manipulation) of

beyond previous modes of Taylorist scientific management. La-

force relationships that becomes possible as soon as a subject

bor practices in these industries are increasingly measured by

with will and power (a business, an army, a city, a scientific insti-

technical systems of key performance indicators (KPIs), which

tution) can be isolated’ from an environment. A tactic, by contrast,

feed back into logistical systems in real time as if with the de-

is ‘a calculated action […] that must play on and with a terrain im-

sire to conjure away the difference between living labor and its

posed on it’. Drawing directly on Clausewitz, de Certeau associates

abstract measure. Such real-time measurement of labor perfor-

tactics with trickery and describes them as ‘the art of the weak’.

mance has contributed to the highly precarious nature of work in the logistics industries, not just among transport workers

… imagining that de Certeau's pedestrian walks in a contempo-

but also among the growing number of workers (often women)

rary city and carries a smartphone in her pocket. The use of such

in data processing, dispatch, and warehousing. On the other

a device alters the experience of traversing the city not only by

hand, logistics workers have realized they hold a strategic po-

enhancing the pedestrian's capacity to pursue connections with

sition in global production systems. Small actions on their part

a multiplicity of other sites but also in the way it registers her

can have widespread effects. Global supply chains, which must

location and keystrokes, serves them up to strategy's databases,

often maintain a balance between leanness and agility, can be

and then feeds them back to augment her interaction with the

extremely fragile. This provides new opportunities for labor

environment. Tactics here can no longer be understood as sim-

organization since actions that occur at one point in the chain

ply subversive of strategy.

resonate along it, having potentially devastating effects both upstream and downstream.

On the one hand, logistics workers are subjected to ever more calibrated devices of performance measurement. These extend

In Marx's formulation, the distinction between living and ab149

stract labor was central to establishing the terms for an anal-

plied opportunities for relatively minor malfunctions, mishaps,

ysis of the production of labor power as a commodity. Living

or interruptions to have widespread effects. At the same time,

labor he describes as ‘form-giving fire’, the subjective capacity

the capacity for logistical systems to adapt to or compensate for

for labor embodied in the worker’s corporeality, insertion into

such disruption has increased. The introduction of real-time

networks of cooperation, and positioning in the concrete social

KPIs, SOPs, and other measures of labor performance, which

circumstances under which labor is performed. Abstract labor

tend to have an individualizing effect on workers, also poses

is the generalized temporal measure of labor that enables its

challenges for labor organization.

translation into the language of value and provides the regulatory nexus for the establishment of a world market for the com-

As Tsing observes, contemporary supply chains show how ‘di-

modity of labor power.

versity forms part of the structure of capitalism rather than an inessential appendage’.

The tension between living and abstract labor, which derives

Zones and corridors are the spatial and temporal technologies

from the fact that the multiplicity and concreteness of the for-

that respond to this search. Not only are they formations that

mer cannot be fully reduced to the latter, has never been as in-

interrupt the continuity of state territories and normativity ac-

tense and wide as under current capitalist conditions.

cording to the logic of what Aihwa Ong ( ) calls ‘graduated sov-

Logistics presents the fantasy of eliminating this impossibility

ereignty’, but they are also sites for novel techniques of gover-

and this tension through technical feats of governance and mea-

nance that introduce differentiation into global space in ways


that enable and establish the conditions for the accumulation of capital.

Contemporary logistical forms of capitalism have vastly multi150

Clearly we have not entered a post-sovereign age where nations

Such negotiations are also pertinent to the operation of trade

have ceased to exercise power over their territories and popula-

corridors in which logistical practices facilitate the movement

tions, but we have entered an era in which economic and state

of goods. The emergence of container freight swap derivatives

sovereignty has been disaggregated to an extent even neo-liberal

allowing parties to hedge and speculate against indexed rates

theorists did not anticipate.

established by agencies such as Drewry Shipping Consultants and the Shanghai Shipping Exchange means that the viability of

Take for example the bill of lading, which is the principal con-

trade corridors now rests as much with financial manipulations

tractual document in containerized maritime transport. As Ser-

as with market demands for transport between various sites.

gio Bologna discusses in his book Le multinazionali del mare

Through the strike or sabotage, hacking or dropping out, there

(2010), this can become a financial asset in so far as it is negotia-

is a moment of excess in which labor in its living form can re-

ble. The contractual prevalence of delayed payment agreements

fuse integration into the system of measure. This can never be a

means that the bill of lading acquires a value that can be ne-

once and for all refusal but must be continually reasserted and

gotiated freely on the market. This is particularly visible when

renegotiated as logistical systems evolve, inserting themselves

merchandise is sold during the course of transport and the new

in various biopolitical circumstances, across different territorial

owner has also to purchase the bill of lading in order to retrieve

spaces, within social relations, across time, within the organiza-

the goods from the carrier, who has the contractual right not to

tion of firms, supply chains, and so on. Nor should this moment

deliver in case of non-payment. Logistical practices in this case

of excess be understood as a simple escape from logistical

must negotiate the barriers between financial and legal orders,

the slyness of logistics consists in its always compromised abili-

which are both increasingly globalized.

ties to counter escape or to integrate acts of refusal back into the database through logics of fault tolerance. 151

The fact that capital can employ logistics to reroute around sites of disturbance means that isolated incidents of unruliness, even if they resonate widely through the system, are more effective if supplemented by actions that work across and along supply chains. By this account, the abstraction of labor subsumes the specificity of living labor and thus functions as a kind of machine for destroying difference ‘Contingency is the nightmare of logistics’ (Rossiter 2012, 26)


Security Spheres: A Phenomenology Of Maritime Spatial Prac-

argument that dimensions of depth and height are integral to

tices / Barry Ryan

the security of space, and that circulation is therefore not ‘contained, controlled and regulated, on a plane’.

The three dimensionality of maritime planning relates to the

By being able to claim a capacity to regulate competing interests

way it layers ocean space so that multiple uses can be assigned

and claims on space, maritime governance boasts inclusivity, a

simultaneously to the seabed, the sea column and the sea sur-

scientific rationale and an environmental imperative.

face. The rationale is that individual economic sectors of the

Globalization shaping space through new procedures that create

sea are interdependent and rely upon common skills and in-

‘synchronous world routines’ (Sloterdijk 2012: 172).

frastructure. These sectors include coastal tourism, offshore

the freedom of the sea gradually being refashioned to reflect the

oil and gas, deep sea fishing, short sea shipping, yachting and

hierarchy of values and differentiated rights of access that de-

marinas, passenger ferry services, cruise tourism, fisheries, in-

fines our urban landscapes and critical infrastructures (Graham

land water transport, coastal protection, offshore wind farms,


state monitoring and surveillance activities, military training, blue biotechnology, desalination, aggregates mining, marine

Zonal Security and the Sea

aquatic products, marine mineral mining and ocean renewable

Sea not as a void but as a ‘resource-rich but fragile space requir-


ing rational management for sustainable development.

The multi-dimensional nature of zonation thus challenges us

With the emergence of zoning, the two-dimensional lines de-

to revisit Braudel’s (1972) route-based imaginary of the ocean.

marcating the swiftest and safest routes no longer move things

In fact, contemporary maritime security aims to routinize the

and people through empty blue space: they now pass through

use of the sea in a manner that supports Elden’s (2009; 2013: 49)

three-dimensional, multifunctional security zones. By cordon153

ing off space for discrete functions, zones add value to specific

Indeed, the early-twentieth century urban planner Hans Blu-

sites, and therefore increasingly carry a territorial and mana-

menfeld (1949) observed that the principle of axiality has en-

gerial rationality to the formerly apolitical, route-based logic of

tirely dominated urban planning since the Renaissance by fore-

ocean movement (Ryan 2013).

grounding routes as the producers of space through cities. By

2d linear zoning begins with amity lines drawn in the late fif-

emphasising the city’s grandeur, he notes, streets have served to

teenth century by Pope Alexander VI

express the political unity and majesty of the state (Blumenfeld

(In the Truman Declaration, September 1945, the US laid claim

1949:26). Routes, in other words, established the new ‘ground’

to jurisdictional authority over its continental shelf and fisher-

upon which political and economic power was redistributed (Vi-

ies resources. Historically this marks a departure from Britain’s

rilio 1986:12).

dominance over ocean space and the birth of the US as a global

routines are not chosen in any meaningful sense, but tak-

naval power.)

en-for-granted; reflection is suppressed. In fact this suppression

Zoning is profitably understood as a taxonomical process: as

is the source of their security-generating power (Mitzen 2006;

technological capability increases and scientific knowledge of


the ocean expands, the global maritime is being systematically

A paper by Antonnucci (2006) recounts how with the launch in

sub-divided into ever smaller administrative units (Ryan 2013:

1843 of metal constructed vessels, ships became a larger, ever


more luxurious form of transport better able to tranquilise its

Materialist ontologies of security enables us to better compre-

passengers. The introduction of brightness to the dark recesses

hend how zones mediate between between a rooted, terres-

of old galleys enabled ships to provide comfort for passengers.

trially-derived (striated) mode of governance and a (nomadic)

The passenger at sea is secured by replicating the attributes of

smooth space perspective more conducive to capital flows.

a well policed city - the hold is made to feel as firm as a city, 154

immunized against the elemental flux outside. As Easterling

The sea is divided into specific use areas - ‘ship channels, dispos-

(2005:23) has so eloquently demonstrated, contemporary ocean

al areas, military security zones, concession zones for mineral

liner cruising replicates an ‘enclosure of familiarity’.

extraction, aquaculture sites and most recently marine protect-

‘the differences inside, unlike the differences outside, are tamed,

ed zones’

sanitized’ (Bauman 2000; 99)

Maritime spatial planning layers ocean space so that multiple

Nowadays, we use different technologies: we construct abso-

functions can be assigned simultaneously to the seabed, the col-

lute islands aiming at a complete isolation from the surround-

umn and the surface area.

ing environment (aircraft, spacecraft, and so on); we construct atmospheric islands that aim to control temperature and climate (greenhouses, air-conditioned offices, and so on); we also construct `anthropogenic' islands which are supposed to carry people and keep them together. Sloterdijk devotes hundreds of pages to such islands that allow us to become the human beings we are: organisations, companies, sports clubs, sects, families, neighbourhoods, countries, empires, states, temples


The Drowned World / JG Ballard

The Migrant Image / T.J. Demos

‘The depot ship had been a gambling steamer and floating vice

A way for corporate power to disguise its own dealings and ‘in-

den, moored beyond the five-mile limit outside Messina or Bei-

crease forms of inequality by absenting itself from regulatory

rut, or in the shelter of some estuarine creek under the blander,

mechanisms, taxation, and the spotlight of legal and financial

more tolerant skies south of the equator.’ P93

scrutiny’ ‘Areas of exception have also proliferated in the geography of

John Donne - “World within world, each man an island unto

global capital, allowing financial bodies to operate outside the

himself, swimming through seas of archipelagos…” (later in this

state’s borders’

poem Donne says ‘ask not for whom the bell tolls’)

‘A related cause and consequence of neoliberalism is the construction of the financial offshore, according to which multina-

‘But gradually, as the exertion of pulling the cart cleared their

tionals are able to make enormous profits by circulating their

heads and made them move in step, the men between the shafts

capital through complex networks of financial exchange via

began to sing what sounded like the lay of an old Haitian cargo

semilegal and ethically dubious mechanisms; as a result, they

cult, a deep crooning melody that again underlined their ambiv-

are able to pay virtually no taxes to the nations and states where

alent attitude toward Kerans.’ P140

they operate, defining further heights of wealth differentiation and an emerging model of accumulation by dispossession’ p 161. 156

‘The first appearance of the offshore industry, when England de-

‘They cheat, just as most maritime city-states have cheated for

tached its currency from silver during the war with revolution-

centuries. Like the Mediterranean city-states of the thirteenth

ary France in 1793.’

to the eighteenth century, with their extended networks of ag-

Enduring Innocence / Keller Easterling

gression and contraband, the port cities generate a constellation of surrounding interdependencies that may take advantage of

‘The ship is sailed out to sea, and for the price the syndicate will

geographic proximity, but may also develop in response to dis-

change its identity and deliver it to some mutually agreed loca-

tant supply chains. Yet the comparison between maritime cities

tion within three days. This could never happen in the aviation

and in-land capital cities that characterizes the capital city as

industry. One wonders what the reaction would be if a crewed

the control organization and the maritime city as a more fluid,

747 carrying cargo - DHL or FedEx plane - were to disappear.’

complex market organization may still hold in some cases. Still,

John S. Burnett, Dangerous Waters (New York: Dutton, 2002), 106

whatever ancient patterns of trade and piracy reappear within the context of deregulated shipping, the port city is no longer a

‘The quarantined territories of ports and parks are, strangely,

cosmopolitan marketplace but, rather, a society of hyper-con-

another iteration of the dream of optimized frictionless passage.’

trol. It constantly oscillates between closure and reciprocity as

‘Whatever their mixture of greedy heuristics - perfect closure

an open fortress of sorts that orchestrates controlled and advan-

with reciprocity, excess without neuroses, or cheating with ab-

tageous cheating.’ P.116

solute control - parks are the likely targets of the very political contingencies they have supposedly banished.’ (P.118)

[Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition]

(The SEZs & EPZs of the world:) 157

Migrant deaths presented as natural tragedies. Migrants from the ‘south’ stopped receiving visas since the 1980s Border crossing can last several days Hostile Environments / Lorenzo Pezzani

Overlaps of different laws/borders These overlaps both extend the mobile sovereignty of certain

The milieu as border

states and also let these states avoid certain responsibilities.

Turning urban spaces hostile for migrants.

EU uses the shrinking of operational rescue zones as a deter-

‘It is up to the government to change the air temperature and

rence, even though this means the death of migrants.

improve the climate’ - Moheau, Recherches sur la population,

Not only at sea but through the sea. The sea mediating state pol-

1778. (When nature gets in the way of humanity it must be con-

icies on one hand but also the bodies of migrants on the other.

tained and dealt with).

Stuart Elden: Terrain as a relation of power - the control of which

The nature of borders

allows the establishing and maintenance of power.

The idea that geography determined french policy.

Sensing practices with and against the border

Influences of Geographic Environment, Ellen Churchill Semple:

The sea is not an empty space but a technologically mediated

The sea is the only absolute boundary. Yet - the mobile forces

space, thick with radar, acoustic sensors, marine traffic mapped

of the air and water could be domesticated to bring peoples to-

by satellite… Maritime space as highly surveilled…


‘Scopic system’

The materiality of oceanic spaces - the liquidity of water, and the

These sensing practices are influenced by things like fog, meteo-

invention of new means of navigation, interact to make the sea

rological conditions - they are therefore imperfect and less than

oscillate between the sea as fluid and the sea as a rigid border.

completely human-centric.

Designing hostility

‘Environments of sense’


‘Nodes of logistical tensions’ - highly intensive, semi-permanent,

‘Governance through the milieu’, an environmental form of in-

Increasing militarization of the maritime front of the EU has led


to the splintering of routes (migrants must use ever more dangerous routes, including on land). (In US there is even a ‘border calculus’...) https://www.wired.

May’s policies have conjured up a diffused surveillance environ-


ments… As pervasive as the weather..

Left to Die boat

Displacement also meaning the loss of the land beneath them…

Wind, currents, sea itself as a sort of witness

Resistance to border violence as both the possibility to escape

Border Environmentality

the milieu and also those environmental...

‘Disobedient gaze’ - redirecting attention away from the rescuers

Struggle in both the freedom to move and the freedom to stay...

to the policing itself.

Ethics of the passerby

Sensing certain events and the obligation to intervene are here

From an ecological perspective, life is displacement from one

brought together.

ecological milieu (rethinking climate migration from a biologi-

Environments as far more than a background to human action,

cal perspective - looking at life as displacement)

but a sign of the dynamic relationships between … it shapes and is in turn shaped by human action.

Borders as a way to protect the relative stability of a few against

The measure of man - Henry Dreyfuss (it’s like the Neufert)

the mobility of the others.

Relationship between man and his working environment

‘Necropolitical regime’ - (Achille Mbembe) - Lecture violence

Environment also includes man’s tools and materials. Environ-

of borders - Politics of abandonment, not as a retreat of power

ment relations to man’s limits and capacities then.

but as a very active form. (A way of not appearing responsible

Immense inequalities in planet-altering powers

for anything happening while still trying to manage). It’s about 159

abandonment as intervention.


Sensing as an obligation to act

Cost-benefit reasoning here: Case 1. I made it here, but since I

Ita marman - when does a human rights encounter occur, is it

can’t get healthcare I will go back. Case 2. I made it here despite

when they call on the phone, or is it when the rescue call gets

the irrationality of my being here - so I am irrational. Case 3.

sent to the ship and the ship doesn’t intervene. How much do

Death in transit - I prove my validating desperation in my death.

the two forces need to encounter each other before it can be said

Migrants on boats to Italy in some cases receiving nationality

that a human rights encounter has occurred?

only posthumously.

Christina Sharp

(Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of


Borders- Adam McKeown)

Environmentality - Jennifer Fabris

Temporal function of borders - Borders do not stop travel but

Lauren Benton - state-like sovereignty came from the indian

they either slow down or speed up travel, they add friction.

ocean not westphalia.

Movement as stasis with a different speed…

Talking about sovereignty when you look at the sea doesn’t make much sense. In fact this overlapping and disjunction of rule shown in the sea is more like the rule not the exception. Planetary urbanisation as evidenced in the sea. ‘Contactless violence’ - The sea as a mediator between these policies and the migrants themselves. Adrian’s work discusses the drifting of the trace from the point of contact. (2001 tampa affair that led to john howard to getting more pow-


AFRICA TWO ENTRIES: Porlotan charts

22/01/19 - Ship’s log: Tilbury -

21/01/19 – Ship’s log: (Dunkerque) – Tilbury

I eat my meals at a separate, circular table within the officer’s mess room. At dinner, the captain, the first officer and the chief

I’m awoken suddenly by the phone ringing on my bedside. ‘Im-

engineer speak to one another in Ukrainian. The other, younger

migration officer’s need to see your passport’ the first officer

Ukrainian officers remain silent.

tells me. My watch is set to the ship’s time, 1am, my phone has

Earlier in the day I went into the captain’s office in order to

changed to UK time and says 12. Tilbury has 3 times as many

purchase some WIFI. I planned on buying $10USD worth but

immigration officers as Dunkerque did. When I enter the ship’s

he didn’t have enough change, so I got $15 instead. His office

office the first officer points across the room. I hand my passport

was tidy; in it there was a desk and computer, as well as var-

to a kind-faced woman in her late-30s standing next to a table

ious Asian trinkets – a wooden boat and a scroll on the wall.

at which two other officers are sat. One is of a similar age with

From where I stood I could see his bed next door. He asked me

a stern expression and a short beard, he remains silent most of

why I had gotten on at Dunkerque instead of Tilbury if I lived in

the time. The other officer is an older, somewhat rounder man,

London; I told him I didn’t realise I had that option. He told me

whose conversation concerns little more than money. I asked

I didn’t speak like the British, that I was easier to understand.

him if this was DP World but he told me we’d already passed it.

Both the captain and the chief engineer are very likeable.

‘You plan on leaving the ship?’ the woman asks me. I tell her it

Overall days onboard are particularly quiet. I went to the gym

depends on what’s around and how long we’d be stopped for.

on C-deck, but no one was in there. Lashed to a wall was a fold-

‘There’s nothing in Tilbury’ the round man tells me, ‘there’s a

ed-up ping-pong table; when I’d asked about it earlier the 3rd-of-

shopping centre up the road though’…

ficer said no one uses it. [Outside there was indeed a swimming 161

pool but it had no water in it.]

Holland; if you want to come to Rotterdam you’re welcome but

The officer’s rec room has been empty each time I’ve visited it,

it is a real pain to get back… why don’t you try knick a car?’ He

whereas the crew’s rec room has generally had at least one per-

told me CGM had put him there to make sure the tanker wasn’t

son in it, though never more than 2 or 3. Tonight in the crew’s

stealing oil. This time it’s with shell so it was fine he said, but

rec 3 of the crew were slouched around the couches watching

any other company and they try to steal. They got 9 tonnes the

a crappy movie in English. When I left them one of the men

other day he told me.

wished me a good evening. 24/01/19 – Ship’s log: Vlissingen Oost (+ Middelburg) 23/01/19 – Ship’s log: DP World Antwerp Gateway Hitchhiked into town with a guy from Ireland who had been As if further confirmation were needed that these erstwhile

living in Netherlands for 30 years. Back in the day he had gone

‘empty’ spaces are now essential components of a planetary ur-

to London for 6 months, hated it, and asked for a transfer. He got

banism, this Antwerp port is truly in the middle of nowhere. I

sent to Rotterdam and 30 years later he’s still there.

found it very difficult to get myself into Antwerp proper, or at least I was very reluctant to pay for a 50+ euro taxi ride. I found

25/01/19 – Ship’s log: Vlissingen Oost

myself trying to hitch a ride instead, but no one really was headed for Antwerp. I flagged each car down that came out of the

2nd Engineer showed me around the engine room.

gate. ‘Are you going to Antwerp?’ I asked them. ‘Française… à

Since around 2000 the engines have been controlled electrically;

Bruxelles’, ‘No, I am going to Holland, good luck’, ‘No, sorry, I’m

fuel injection all these things are now controlled by computer.

going to the other side’. I got back inside and I found the young

This means that when things are running well that it’s very easy,

Dutch guy of around my age with an ornate earring. ‘I’m going to

but the problem is when things don’t go well it’s much more dif162

ficult to right them. When it’s mechanical it’s simpler and you

As I made it to the mess room for dinner everyone had left but

can rectify.

the 2nd engineer. So promptly after my arrival finished his meal, wished me bon appetite, and left. So I took my meal to the other

Talking with 3rd officer in the crew mess room. Now 25, he’s

side. I sat down opposite the 2nd officer (Antonio). ‘Maybe in 5

thinking about proposing to his girlfriend, who he’s been with

years time I’ll be done with ships. I could buy myself a car and

for 9 years. Duterte, he won by landslide and most people like

do uber or something like that.’

him. I’ll work my way up he says. He made it to officer by 22,

…It’s a boy… He’s 8. Next month he’s going to Bangkok for a

which is very young. Ultimate goal is captain. After that you can

swimming competition, and I’d really like to be there to see him,

choose what you want; some captains like to be on ship, others

(his voice is real solemn by this point)... but I can’t of course.

go ashore to work in an office and do administration. You can even go to the academy and train the next generation. In the seamen’s club. A nice old bloke from Newcastle, an engineer type, he was talking about his life in around the sea. I met this couple he says, they were in that exact business. Let’s just say you’re sending a ship full of whatever it is, sugar for example, from South America. They tell the ship the general direction they’re heading in, ‘ok, you’re headed for Europe’. And in between leaving and arriving over in Europe that sugar could be bought and sold 30 times over. Only a few days before they arrive do they find out what port they’re actually landing in.


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