XXI Century: the Mediterranean area is the frontier between the North and the South of the world, the bastions around Fortress Europe. A new Iron Curtain that only contains people from one side, whilst goods travel freely. Goods travel without restrictions in colourful iron boxes, piled over floating iron cities, marked with a code that tells their past and their destiny and works as a permission of free circulation. Over seventy percent of world's goods are transported by containers. Thanks to a progressive standardisation in measures and procedures people are not needed anymore to manage them.
XX Century: the Mediterranean comes out its traditional agrarian economy and heavy industry booms thanks to its delicate cushioning position between East and West. The Marshal Plan sparkles an industrial revolution on the sea shores. Iron factories, boatyards, petrochemical compounds are a promise of wealth for generations. However this production model is unable to renovate itself and compete in a globalised scenario and starts to abandon the land, leaving environmental damages and social inequality.
In the Korean owned TTI Terminal of the Algeciras port a software recognises the code on the container, reads its origin, content and destination and sends orders to the huge cranes. Massive bulks are moving, but the deck is deserted. In the control tower a solitary employee surrounded by monitors is there just in case of software inaccuracy.
In the port of Athens, once the launch pad for Greek supremacy, the dockers of the glorious Piraeus Port Authority are not competitive anymore and remain without task. Their colleagues of the Pier 2, owned by the Chinese state company Cosco, are working on a temporary basis, with no benefits, earning around half their salary. “The world is not anymore as I used to see it”, says the president of the Piraeus Dockers Union.
Taranto continues to be the most contaminated city in Europe. Recently, thanks to the new regional anti//dioxin law, there hve been improvements on the amount of emissions released in the air by the iron factory ILVA. However the sea is also at risk after discovering that the famed mussels of Mar Piccolo, exported all across the world, were filled with dioxin. According to analyses of mussels conducted by the local sanitary institution of Taranto, the limit allowed by the regional law was not exceeded. However, this law imposes slack limits for products of the sea, being more restrictive with meat, milk or cheese. Here lies the contradiction: 100 grams of mussels that conform to the regulations contain more picograms of dioxin and PCB than 100 grams of lamb “outside the law”. The situation remains critical: an area covering twenty kilometres starting from the industrial zone is prohibited to graze in; animal breeding is diminishing.
CARTAGENA DE MURCIA
In the floating cages of the Bay of El Gorguel, Cartagena, Spain, lie the first Atlantic bluefin tuna – currently known as red tuna - born and bred in captivity. The stock of this species, highly prized as sushi or sashimi, has reached alarming levels because of overfishing. Breeding the red tuna has been a dream for many years and may be a sustainable option to supply the world without exhausting the fishing grounds. In 2008 the project SELFDOTT began, involving the Spanish Institute for Oceanography (IEO), the University of Cartagena and the Ricardo Fuentes group. For the past four years, researchers have been collecting the eggs that the tuna lay during the months of June and July. During the first two years, the program paid off: the microscopic larvae grew, but when the fry were released into the tank most of them died by crashing into the walls. In July 2010, the Japanese Manabu Seoka, an expert on larval rearing of Pacific bluefin tuna, joined the team and solved the problem, giving a boost to the project.
Every year, approximately sixty million people reach the Mediterranean shores attracted by the sun, sea and dolce far niente. The Mediterranean life-style seduces the visitor as a game, not as a reality. For the first time in its history the Mediterranean attracts its invaders without assimilating them and risks to be culturally assimilated and converted into a object.
Fernand Braudel, La Mediterran-e, les hommes et l’heritage
If the industrial model of development has been overcome by the times, it seems that the only way of living for Mediterranean folks is to become a tourist attraction. The inhabitants of la Barceloneta fight against real estate speculation that is turning their traditional fishermen's neighbourhood into a fancy touristic area.
The port container traffic, that measures the flow of containers from land to sea and vice versa, has been of 572.207.570 TEUs (standard/size container) in the year 2011. About 7.5 percent of world sea trade is carried via the Suez canal, one of the doors of the Mediterranean Sea. In 2012 the revenue from the canal, thanks to a tariff of 5 dollars on every ton passing through, totalled USD 5.2 billion. Average cost per ship is roughly USD250,000.00. It is a cash flow that didn't suffer the repercussions of the global economic crisis, due to the increase of China's exports. Roughly 90 percent of dry, non/bulk manufactured goods are shipped in cargo containers, including machine parts, electronics, paper, tires, footwear, scrap metal, apparel, auto parts, toys, food, beverages, chemicals, textiles, furniture, and appliances.
PORTO TORRES / ASINARA ISLAND
In 2011, the workers laid/off by the chemical industry ENI of Porto Torres, Sardinia, self/exiled to the deserted Asinara Island, starting the first labour protest entirely on the web. They claimed their jobs back, as well as focusing attention to the island, a natural reserve in a state of wilderness, as a possible source of employment in tourism.
The production of ‘human waste’ / or more precisely, wasted lives, the ‘superfluous’ population of migrants, refugees and other outcasts / is an inevitable outcome of modernisation. It is an unavoidable side/effect of economic progress and the quest for order which is a characteristic of modernity.
Zygmunt Bauman, Wasted Lives
Globalisation has come earlier on the seas than on land, and tougher. 84 percent of the million sea workers come from undeveloped countries and the use of flag of convenience of countries like Liberia and Panama avoid the application of labour regulations. With the world economic crisis causing the bankruptcy of many naval companies, there has been a rise of cases of abandoned seamen all over the Mediterranean Sea. The International Transport Federation defines the crew as abandoned when they do not receive a salary for over 3 months and the shipowner has disappeared and can no longer be found. The seamen remain on board for months, sometimes years, waiting for the long process that leads to the ship's sale; hoping that the revenue will pay their overdue salaries. The frustration of not being able to provide for their families at home leads to depression and, in some cases, suicide.
NEMRUT BAY / GIGLIO ISLAND
When ships are finally sold they end up in ship scraping yards like the one in Nemrut Bay, Turkey. “I will never forget the first time I conducted my vessel into Nemrut Bay to be demolished – says Jamal, a Lebanese captain. / From the shore they were yelling at the radio: full power captain! So I pushed the engines to the limit heading toward the beach. I was excited, I felt like God. When the vessel touched the bottom everything started to shake, making a monstrous noise. The vessel was crying for is imminent death. At that moment I realised that I had loved that boat as a woman.”