Title: Along Liquid Paths
Work: Architecture & Design Research
Location: North Sea
Date: 2019

When you are 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 exactly how this maritime space influences the seafarer is what my project deals with. More specifically, my project explores how a redesigned container ship can construct a new subjectivity for the seafarers aboard it.

As a symbol of sovereignty the flag can be a source of solidarity and pride, but it can also act as a tool for appropriation and exploitation. The flags of countries including Panama and Liberia have been used by shipping magnates since the 1940s to avoid tax as well as pesky labour regulations. This system of buying nominal sovereignty from another nation is known as flags of convenience. If these flags are used to make precarious, I explore how such tools might be used to enhance labour conditions. This is done first by changing the ownership model of the ship from a corporate one to a cooperative one; so the ship is owned by the people that work on it. The design is then a series of subtle interventions within the ship that emerge out of this shift in ownership.

︎ Text: Ship as Microcosm
︎︎︎ Sent Folder
︎ Research Book

Work: Photography & Logbook
Location: North Sea
Date: 2019

CMA CGM Africa Two. A container ship capable of carrying up to 3650 standard containers. I spent one week on this ship as it travelled from Dunkirk back to Dunkirk. The following notes and photographs chart this journey.

‘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

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

I’m awoken suddenly by the phone ringing on my bedside. ‘Immigration officer’s need to see your passport’ the first officer tells me. My watch is set to the ship’s time, 1am, my phone has changed to UK time and says 12. Tilbury has 3 times as many immigration officers as Dunkerque did. When I enter the ship’s office the first officer points across the room. I hand my passport to a kind-faced woman in her late-30s standing next to a table at which two other officers are sat. One is of a similar age with a stern expression and a short beard, he remains silent most of the time. The other officer is an older, somewhat rounder man, whose conversation concerns little more than money. I asked him if this was DP World but he told me we’d already passed it. ‘You plan on leaving the ship?’ the woman asks me. I tell her it depends on what’s around and how long we’d be stopped for. ‘There’s nothing in Tilbury’ the round man tells me, ‘there’s a shopping centre up the road though...’

22/01/19 - Ship’s log: 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 engineer speak to one another in Ukrainian. The other, younger Ukrainian officers remain silent.

Earlier in the day I went into the captain’s office in order to purchase some WIFI. I planned on buying $10USD worth but he didn’t have enough change, so I got $15 instead. His office was tidy; in it there was a desk and computer, as well as various Asian trinkets – a wooden boat and a scroll on the wall. From where I stood I could see his bed next door. He asked me why I had gotten on at Dunkerque instead of Tilbury if I lived in London; I told him I didn’t realise I had that option. He told me I didn’t speak like the British, that I was easier to understand. Both the captain and the chief engineer are very likeable.

Overall days onboard are particularly quiet. I went to the gym on C-deck, but no one was in there. Lashed to a wall was a folded-up ping-pong table; when I’d asked about it earlier the 3rd-officer said no one uses it.  [Outside there was indeed a swimming pool but it had no water in it.]

The officer’s rec room has been empty each time I’ve visited it, whereas the crew’s rec room has generally had at least one person in it, though never more than 2 or 3. Tonight in the crew’s rec 3 of the crew were slouched around the couches watching a crappy movie in English. When I left them one of the men wished me a good evening.

25/01/19 – Ship’s log: Vlissingen Oost

2nd Engineer showed me around the engine room. Since around 2000 the engines have been controlled electrically; fuel injection all these things are now controlled by computer. This means that when things are running well that it’s very easy, but the problem is when things don’t go well it’s much more difficult to right them. When it’s mechanical it’s simpler and you can rectify.

Talking with 3rd officer in the crew mess room. Now 25, he’s thinking about proposing to his girlfriend, who he’s been with for 9 years. Duterte, he won by landslide and most people like him. I’ll work my way up he says. He made it to officer by 22, which is very young. Ultimate goal is captain. After that you can choose what you want; some captains like to be on ship, others 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.

As I made it to the mess room for dinner everyone had left but 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 side. I sat down opposite the 2nd officer (Antonio). ‘Maybe in 5 years time I’ll be done with ships. I could buy myself a car and do uber or something like that. ‘…It’s a boy… He’s 8. Next month he’s going to Bangkok for a swimming competition, and I’d really like to be there to see him, (his voice is real solemn by this point)... but I can’t of course.’

Basketball Court


Workshop                                                               Office                                                                       Gym

Technical Drawing (alternations shown in blue)

Video Essay