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Globalisation, Labour Market Transformation and Migrant Marginalisation: the Example of Transmigrant Seafarers in Germany


Globalisation has transformed the seafarer labour market. As shipping companies have flagged vessels out to open registers, they have shifted from recruiting seafarers on a local hire, frequently permanent, basis to employing seafarers from developing countries on temporary contracts via third party crewing agencies. This has diminished opportunities for seafarers in developed countries and has also impacted on less visible groups—those transmigrants who formerly travelled to European hub ports to be hired directly by companies on European terms and conditions. Using the example of shipping, this paper presents an account of how changes in global labour markets impact differentially on groups and have the potential to cause particular problems for migrant workers.

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  1. 1.

    This began operations in 2002.

  2. 2.

    My thanks to Hans Schaefer for giving me an insight into the history of seafarers in Hamburg.

  3. 3.

    The term generally applied to ships changing their registration or ‘flag’.

  4. 4.

    However, see Sampson and Bloor (2007) for a discussion of some of the limitations on such standardization.

  5. 5.

    Most companies had 70–150 vessels; however, one was larger (350 ships), and two were relatively small (8 and 18 ships, respectively).

  6. 6.

    Thanks are due to Torsten Schroeder and Nelson Turgo for their respective assistance in data collection.

  7. 7.

    Ratings are the lowest-ranking seafarers, and the term generally covers able-bodied seafarers and ordinary seafarers as well as wipers and motormen (sometimes called oilers).

  8. 8.

    The company Jo tankers recently replaced 50 Dutch nationals with other nationalities (Tanker Operator 2009).


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Thanks are due to the Economic and Social Research Council which funded the research underpinning this paper (ESRC L214252036).

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Correspondence to Helen Sampson.

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An early version of this paper was presented at the International Sociological Association conference in Gothenburg in 2010. My thanks for the feedback received at this meeting.

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Sampson, H. Globalisation, Labour Market Transformation and Migrant Marginalisation: the Example of Transmigrant Seafarers in Germany. Int. Migration & Integration 14, 751–765 (2013).

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  • Globalisation
  • Labour markets
  • Outsourcing
  • Offshoring
  • Migration
  • Shipping
  • Seafarers
  • Marginalisation