The Neptunes are a group of Fletcherites who collectively continue to pursue their interest in oceanic studies. Under the guidance of Professor Perry, they have undertaken voyages to explore the oceanic experiences of the Netherlands, New York City, Britain, Iberia, China, Japan, the Pacific coast of the US, and the Malacca Straits. Each voyage aims to investigate aspects of the role of the ocean as source, avenue, and arena: a source of foodstuffs and energy, of recreation and cultural inspiration, an avenue for the flow of goods, people, and ideas, and an arena for struggle and warfare.
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.