, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 159-180
Date: 10 Aug 2006

Crime on the High Seas: Crimes of Globalization and the Sinking of the Senegalese Ferry Le Joola

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Abstract

The world’s second largest maritime disaster occurred on September 26th 2002, the sinking of the Senegal’s state run ferry Le Joola, killing 1863 passengers. In the wake of the sinking, it became clear that the state of Senegal held liability for the ferry’s failure; the government readily admitted its errors and several ministers either stepped down or were removed from their positions. In many ways, this case, at least on the surface, looks like a classic example of a state crime – illegal activities carried out by the state or state agencies. However, despite unequivocal governmental responsibility, we suggest that this was not simply a case of state crime. Rather, a thorough investigation and analysis of the reasons and forces behind the Le Joola sinking suggest that international institutions, primarily the World Bank, bear culpability for the disaster due to the way in which their policies and economic development demands altered Senegal’s social, economic and political structures. In conclusion, we offer a criminological analysis of the catalysts leading to the reinstatement of the state run ferry to the coastal waters and the subsequent actions taken by the State of Senegal and of International Society.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Nashville, TN. November 17–20, 2004.