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Nighttime Navigating

Moving a Container Ship through Darkness

Maria Borovnik

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.