Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Driven by a cost-efficient ‘just-in-time’ logic, commodities travel the world along maritime routes and through port infrastructures. A renewed interest in the hidden politics and practices of global logistics has brought geographers and other social scientists to look closer at the friction that form integral part of the apparent smoothness of global trade. While underpinned by violent power, logistical systems are also particularly vulnerable to breakdowns and stoppages, caused by anything from labour disputes to storms. In this paper I turn to a European container port in order to look closer at the relationship between global trade and nature seen as potentially disruptive power. The Port of Algeciras Bay, Spain’s largest and Europe's fourth busiest container port, is a so-called transshipment hub, where cargo containers are transferred from one vessel to another. Located at the Strait of Gibraltar, at the gateway between Europe and Africa, the port holds a strategic position for transfer along the world’s maritime routes. But the geopolitically important Strait of Gibraltar is also shaped by the coastal winds of ‘Poniente’ and ‘Levante’, the latter categorized by workers and managers in the port as powerfully disruptive. Focusing on the everyday tasks and strategies of shipping agents and other logistics brokers I discuss the ways in which the winds of the strait are predicted and managed. When wind is regarded to disrupt the rhythms of ship berthing and cargo transfer, I argue, it also leads to a revaluation of container cargo as a specific form of mobile capital.