Research Trips

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NorwayTo gain meaningful and current insights into the changing maritime landscape, the Fletcher Maritime Studies program brings together students with policy leaders, businesses, and key figures around the world, to gain an on-the-ground view of important maritime issues.

Trips have included every major world port, as well as key areas of change, such as the Arctic.

Spring 2016

South East Asia

South East Asia has some of the world’s largest and busiest ports, and have has deeply shaped by three centuries of maritime trade and colonization. As the region moves towards greater integration, Fletcher students traveled to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to better understand dynamics at play.

With the backdrop of ongoing geopolitical tensions surrounding the South China Sea, students spoke with port operators about how the domestic and international security and political climates affect trade. They spoke to businesses about cooperative efforts around climate change. Students also met with environmental conservationists about sustainable economic development in Asia.

Fall 2015

The Fletcher School brought the largest delegation to the Arctic Circle Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. With over 50 students, faculty, alumni, and staff, the Fletcher group participated in Arctic discussions including environmental change, sustainable development, security, to economic growth. Maritime Studies Researcher Jack Whitacre presented at the conference.

After the conference, participants were treated to traditional Icelandic delicacies, including spirits and fermented shark.

Fall 2014

Massachusetts Coast Lobster Tour

Over 60 students, faculty, and staff joined a sea voyage exploring the coast of Massachusetts, and learned about the rise of lobster as a luxury. From seeing how sustainability and environmental monitoring are implemented, to understanding the economics of the lobster industry, participants were afforded a front row seat to how the industry is seeking to balance growth with environmental stewardship.

Spring 2014

West Coast Maritime Tour

Three intrepid Fletcher students utilized their graduate school winter break to learn more about the United States’ west coast maritime industry. They started at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They explored the scale of the two largest intermodal ports in the US and learn about their environmental sustainability initiatives, community relations programs, and facilities handling enormous volumes of diversified international trade. They then drove the Pacific coast highway north to the Port of Oakland. There, they learned more about labor unions role at port, long term strategic planning, and port competition. They then headed inland for the long drive to Portland, Oregon. It was fascinating to contrast the containerized import facilities we mostly saw further south and the bulk exporting facilities of the Columbia River. Lastly, they made their way westward to speak with Coast Guard Base Astoria and get on a Cutter at the confluence of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean – otherwise known as the “graveyard of the Pacific.”

West Coast Maritime Tour

West Coast Maritime Tour

Fall 2013

Oyster Farm Tour

At the base of Cape Cod in East Dennis, Massachusetts, Fletcher students visited Big Rock Oyster Farm to learn more about this ecologically friendly and delicious bivalve.

Big Rock Oyster Farm, East Dennis, Massachusetts
Big Rock Oyster Farm, East Dennis, Massachusetts

Big Rock Oyster Farm, East Dennis, Massachusetts
Big Rock Oyster Farm, East Dennis, Massachusetts

Summer 2013

Port of Portland, Maine

We toured several oil and dry cargo port facilities in Portland, Maine, where we were warmly received by our host, John H. Henshaw, a Fletcher School alumnus and Executive Director of the Maine Port Authority. Portland is home to New England’s only major crude oil terminal, which since opening to tankers in 1941 has supplied over four billion barrels via pipeline to refineries in the Montreal area. While touring the facilities we heard first-hand accounts of a heated local debate around the proposed reversal of the Maine-Quebec pipeline, which in light of dwindling imports would transform Portland into an export outlet for Alberta tar sands crude oil. We left Portland deeply impressed by the terminal operators and staff, who were a model of professionalism and good humor.

Portland, ME
Portland, ME

Oslo Ministerial Visits

In August 2013 a Fletcher delegation traveled to Oslo, on its way to Svalbard. There we received briefings on Norway’s geopolitical and strategic interests in the High North by government officials at the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Ministry of the Environment, and Ministry of Fisheries. The group meet the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, Ambassador Barry White, and were briefed by the U.S. Embassy’s lead Arctic expert on America’s priorities as an Arctic nation. Additionally, the group met with the World Wildlife Fund and the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies (IFS), the foremost security and defense think tank in Norway, where they explored a non-governmental perspective on challenges and realities facing the Arctic.

Svalbard, Norway

Following briefings in Oslo, Fletcher School students and alumni travelled to Svalbard, Norway, for a research trip to participate in a conference on the prospects for Arctic Shipping. The group learned about the challenges and opportunities emerging in the Arctic through lectures and discussions withprominent Norwegian experts on Arctic shipping technology, natural resource extraction, climate change and sea ice conditions, search and rescue, indigenous peoples, and geopolitics.

Svalbard, Norway
Svalbard, Norway

Spring 2013

Port of NY/NJ

Venturing out of New England, several students and one alumni made a quick trip down to the Port of NY/NJ. They received an extensive tour of the Port’s dry, liquid, and break-bulk facilities, and the primary containerized cargo terminals in the Port of Newark and Elizabeth. They discussed competition on the Eastern seaboard, Panama Canal expansion impact, and port security.

Port of NY/NJ
Port of NY/NJ

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

The Fletcher Maritime Studies Program’s long standing emphasis on environmental oceanographic challenges brought students’ to one the world’s foremost oceanographic institutions. Touring the facilities and speaking with researchers, students discussed where scientific research stands on pressing climate questions, and how the policy and business communities use WHOI research.

Coast Guard Base Boston

A Fletcher alumnus from the Coast Guad organized a tour of Boston’s Coast Guard Base. Students were able to board different cutters, while being exposed to range of security and environmental duties the Coast Guard is tasked with.

Malacca Straits: March 2006

We visited Singapore, the new Malaysian container port of Tanjung Pelepas, and the Indonesian island of Bintan, crossing the Singapore Strait by ferry under a blazing sun. We enjoyed fruitful meetings with the Singaporean Foreign Minister, the Strategic Policy Office of the Singaporean Prime Minister’s Office, PSA Group, and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. We also visited various academic institutions, including the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy where Professor Perry gave a talk entitled “Beyond the Terracentric.” Our visits to Malaysia and Indonesia helped us to place Singapore in a comparative light. Tanjung Pelepas symbolizes nearby competition. Singapore illustrates the evolving entrepot function of the global port city – from seaport to airport, financial port, internet port, intellectual port – and a determination, as one Singaporean friend put it, “to run hungry.” As always it was a pleasure to meet local members of the Fletcher family to discuss the Malacca Straits and other oceanic topics.

US Pacific Coast: July 2005

We visited the major ports on the Pacific coast of the US, from north to south: Seattle, Tacoma, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach. We enjoyed our meetings with the port authorities of each respective port, as well as the US Coast Guard in Astoria, Oregon, where we took to the sea to view the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific at Cape Disappointment. We discussed how each port authority faces a wide range of issues, from dredging for superships to planning coordination with the local community, environmental sustainability, and rail connections to the hinterland. We were impressed with the changing role of the seaport and how many facets of contemporary international relations are prevalent where ocean meets shore in the global port city.

Japan: February 2005

We investigated the Japanese oceanic experience by visiting Yokohama and Tokyo. Yokohama is a quintessential seaport, with maritime-themed sidewalk tiles, waterfront parks, and the largest Japanese passenger terminal. We were graciously received by the Japan Coast Guard and the Yokohama Port Authority. We toured a salvaged North Korean spy ship at the Japan Coast Guard Museum. The Yokohama Port Authority gave us an informative tour of the harbor and answered our questions about their port operations. We were impressed with the port’s ability to adjust to the changing needs of the Japanese economy. In Tokyo, we woke up early to visit the Tsukuji fish market, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. As in China, local Fletcherites were instrumental in planning our voyage and helping us sample outstanding Japanese cuisine.

China: February 2005

We explored the Chinese oceanic experience by visiting the ports of Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Xiamen, and Shanghai. We traveled by sea when possible but more often by air and minivan. We were generously received by Hutchison Port Holdings in Hong Kong, Xiamen, and Shanghai, and by the port authorities of Guangzhou, Xiamen, and Shanghai. We were impressed by the efficiency of Hutchison’s container ports. We also visited museums, historical sites, and the vibrant markets of Hong Kong and Shanghai. China’s massive infrastructure development and bustling commercial activity were pervasive in all the ports we visited. Local Fletcherites were instrumental in planning our voyage and helping us sample a wide variety of Chinese cuisine.

Iberia: March 2004

We investigated the Iberian oceanic experience by exploring the ports of Lisbon and Cadiz, overnighting in the historic town of Sagres, visiting the British enclave of Gibraltar, and crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from Algeciras to Spanish Ceuta. We visited museums and historical sites, scoured the streets for oceanic artifacts, and enjoyed fado music and regional cuisine. The Lisbon and Cadiz port authorities were generous in their time and attention. Lisbon illustrated how government can ease the arrival of cruise ships and simultaneously redevelop theater front for local recreation. We toured the Cadiz container port as well as the fish market. Gibraltar and Ceuta provided an interesting comparison, with the latter showing a surprising amount of economic activity.

Britain: August 2003

We explored the British oceanic experience by visiting the ports of Liverpool, Bristol, Falmouth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, and Felixstowe. We visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, the Maritime Heritage Center in Bristol, the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, the Naval Heritage Area in Portsmouth, and the Southampton Maritime Museum. We also took to the sea for six harbor tours. The British pride in the Royal Navy was a theme throughout our voyage. We were particularly impressed with the HMS Warrior, built in 1860 during the transition from wood and sail to iron and steam. At Felixstowe we also enjoyed a long conversation with officials of the Port Authority about the role of the container and ocean as avenue. We were struck by a sense of pessimism in Britain contrasting with the optimism we found in the Netherlands.

New York City: June 2003

We began our voyage with the famous Circle Line Full Island Cruise around Manhattan. We visited the City Museum of New York, the South Street Seaport Museum, the Fulton Fish Market, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey also gave us a tour of their modern port facilities, and thanks to our special ties to the US Coast Guard we were able to get a close view of the speedy, efficient, and highly automated handling of container cargo, part of what we call the third oceanic revolution.

Netherlands: March 2003

We covered the compact geographical core of oceanic Netherlands (Holland and Zeeland), visiting the Scheepvaart museum, the Delta Works storm surge barrier, and the massive harbor of Rotterdam/Europort. The Delta Works is a vast complex of dams and gates attempting to control the nation’s salt water frontier. Rotterdam is lined with fuel storage tanks, refineries, and specialized terminals that illustrate the Dutch genius for processing goods as middlemen between supplier and customer. Europort is Rotterdam’s deep-water port, a superport for the supership. We also found in the landscape numerous cultural reminders of the sea such as painted tiles, weathervanes, and a large office building closely resembling a ship reflecting continuing Dutch interest in the oceanic experience.