Nighttime Navigating

Moving a Container Ship through Darkness

in Transfers
Maria Borovnik Massey University

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The seafaring trade is considered one of the most dangerous occupations. Dealing with their daily tasks while skippering across seascapes, seafarers are exposed to weather, wind, currents, and changeable ship movements. Container ships operate day and night along tight schedules and constitute physically and mentally exhausting environments, amplified during nighttime. This article draws on mobilities research that conceptualizes seascapes as sensitive and affective, and as spaces of production and social transformation. Nighttime traveling is multisensual. Darkness may dim landscape and intensify the effect (and affects) of the unpredictable seascape. Ships must slow down and rely on technology, and the experience and knowledge of navigators and ship crews. The buildup of stillness accompanying slower movements is filled with alertness in response to the known and unknown dangers that the seascape holds at night. This article uses seafarers’ narratives and my own observations to unfold the complexities of steering a container ship through the night.

Contributor Notes

Maria Borovnik is Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Her research area considers the intersections between mobility, migration, and development with an emphasis on mobile livelihoods of Pacific sea farers and their families. Her publications have focused on transnational aspects of labor circulation, identity, health, and well-being of seafarers, and how the actual experience of work on cargo ships changes perceptions of self, ship, port, and home communities. E-mail:

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies


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