Port Walks is an online art project exploring contemporary seafaring through the medium of podcasts. It was a 2017 Port Perspectives commission by Dublin Port. Around 90% of world trade is carried by the shipping industry. In Ireland, Dublin Port handles almost 50% of the Republic’s trade. Two thirds of all containerised traffic destined for Ireland arrives at Dublin Port. The seafarers who operate these vessels have been called an invisible community. This project sought to make a link between seafarers and the recreational walkers around Dublin Port using audio podcasts as a medium. The Great South Wall at the entrance to Dublin Port is a jetty extending 2km into Dublin Bay. Ships entering Dublin Port pass within 100 metres of the wall. Walkers there can feel the vibrations of the ships as they move past, but although the distance is small, the distance between parallel lives appears unbridgeable. There are three podcasts, loosely connected temporally as past, present and future.
The first podcast, Containers Changed Everything, refers to the way in which systems of intermodal transport distanced ports from the public eye becoming a silent radical force that transformed, not only shipping and seafaring, but also global trade, production and consumption.
The second podcast, Beyond The Horizon and Beneath The Surface, reflects on tensions existing between globalised and national interests. These tensions are exposed in the operation of flags of convenience, port state control measures and oversight of seafarer training. Beneath the surface seafarers struggle to stay close to family using the internet and contend with the ship as a workplace and a homeplace for long tours of duty.
The third podcast, Sea Change, considers factors shaping the shipping industry that point towards autonomous ships as the next innovation that will transform shipping. This sea change will have consequences for seafarers, shore workers and walkers alike. All the while, shoreside walkers on the Great South Wall enjoy watching ships enter and leave Dublin Port.
The podcasts are available on iTunes, Soundcloud and Stitcher as well as from the website portwalks.ie. See Port Walks Review for reflections on the project by Katherine Atkinson, Declan McGonagle, Jackie Bourke and Eamonn O’Reilly..