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New Essex based project to examine how seaports facilitate organised crime

  • Date

    Fri 26 Apr 19

Photo of a port

A new Essex based research project is aiming to advance our understanding of why large seaports across the world are hotspots for organised crime and open to exploitation by criminal networks.

The project, SECURPORTS, will be led by organised crime expert Dr Anna Sergi, from our Department of Sociology and will focus on the ports of Liverpool, Genoa, Montreal, New York and Melbourne.

It is one of just 15 projects chosen for funding by the British Academy’s new programme  The Humanities and Social Sciences Tackling the UK’s International Challenges.


"Ports are unique environments and crimes such as drug trafficking and the smuggling of illegal goods are rife within them." 
Dr Anna Sergi department of sociology

Speaking about the project, Dr Sergi said: “Ports are unique environments and crimes such as drug trafficking and the smuggling of illegal goods are rife within them.

“The problem is they are areas that comprise different border zones cutting across different national jurisdictions and inevitably there are some unregulated areas.

“They are places of flux, of arrival and transit, and they fall between different economic processes and political decisions – but they are also microcosms of the cities and towns beyond.

“Criminal networks are able to exploit and circumvent customs and controls at ports and it’s vital that we further examine and compare how this happens across the world in order to better inform policy.

“All of the ports we will be focusing on are particularly interesting as they have been targets for organised crime groups or used as transit areas for their activities. 

“When looking at Liverpool we will be paying particular attention to the changing geopolitical conditions surrounding Brexit.”

Dr Luca Storti from the University of Torino in Italy will also be working on the project which is due to run until the summer of 2020.

The project has received almost £50,000 from The Humanities and Social Sciences Tackling the UK’s International Challenges programme which has been funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The 15 programmes supported by the programme aim to shed light on our understanding of the UK’s international challenges – past, present and future – and to further cross-learning between academic, policy, practitioner and public communities on issues that are topical, under-explored or necessitate re-framing.

Professor Ash Amin FBA, Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the British Academy, said: “We are delighted to be able to support these researchers, whose projects will bring original interdisciplinary ideas from the humanities and social sciences to bear on our understanding of a range of international challenges and opportunities relevant to the UK.

“Understanding the world beyond the UK and developing international research collaborations between UK and international researchers is a critical endeavour. Supporting the humanities and social sciences in this way is fundamental to the British Academy's mission to sustain international engagement and cooperation. The Academy’s awards under Tackling the UK’s International Challenges Programme embody this spirit.”