Industrial PhD Project Well Under Way
In collaboration with Copenhagen University and with support from the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation & Higher Education, Seahealth has had anthropologist Adrienne Mannov on staff since April 2012 to research how seafarers perceive and act upon piracy threats. This is the only research project in the world that addresses seafarers and piracy threats as a work condition.
The project has enjoyed great support from the industry. The anthropological method used in this project includes conversations/interviews with seafarers, meetings with shipping companies, and participation in various activities, such as officers’ seminars and maritime conferences. In addition, Adrienne has been out sailing with those who confront piracy threats as a part of their work life at sea. Here Danish and foreign shipping companies have been very helpful and more trips are being planned. In order to gain insight into the particularly vulnerable area around Somalia’s coast and the military activity there, Adrienne also joined the crew on board the Danish frigate Iver Huitfeldt for two weeks.
Another important layer in the research project is the industry’s multinational character. Perceptions and reactions to risks and dangers are dynamic and relative processes. Everyone takes risks in their lives – if only to cross the street when the light is red – but what it is that leads us to believe that we can handle these risks, can be very different. Such beliefs are connected to how we have learned to deal with the circumstances with which we are confronted throughout our lives. Here regional conditions can play an important role, both with regards to safety and security.
At this point in the project, Adrienne is beginning to close down the Danish part of the project so that she can direct her efforts toward Ukrainian, Indian and Filipino seafarers. There are the nations that are most often represented within the international maritime industry.
Geography also plays an important role in where danger is located. One of the benefits of anthropological research is that the projects’ focus can be tailored to the central themes that emerge along the way. When the project started, there was a lot of focus on piracy off the coast of Somalia. But as long as there are trustworthy guards on board or the ship’s physical characteristics make an attack unlikely (high freeboard and high speed) the majority of seafarers participating in the project, seem to be relatively comfortable with sailing through what is referred to as the “High Risk Area”. There is, however, great concern about armed robbery and piracy along the coast of West Africa. For this reason, this region will also play a central role in the research project and trips on board are also planned.
The industrial PhD stretches over a three year period. Fieldwork – the phase in which data is collected – will conclude at the end of 2013. The dissertation is expected to be finished in August 2013.