The 21st century grows more troubled as the economic and geo-political situation grows more unstable and maritime is no exception as civil unrest and social disorders erupt at ports and attached facilities. Recently, unrest has erupted in ports in the form of employee strikes which were received with deadly force from law enforcement and port security forces; following negative press worldwide as well as more unrest among workers.

Obviously, you are here to find out how to contain riots and minimise casualties and you are currently way beyond negotiation stages therefore discussion on methods is warranted. Firstly, knowing the mentality of the rioters is vital for success as motivations and their value to the rioters is the spark that starts the conflict. According to Clifford Stott of Liverpool University, (2014) individuals within mobs act autonomously while creating ¬†makeshift social identities including every other member of the group; congealing as “compatriots” engage with enforcement agencies which establishes a “common oppressor;” breeding fear and instinct of self-preservation.

Now that we have established the nature of a theoretical mob the next logical step would be to discuss the first step in containing the situation; starting in shaping the approach from actions. Since the rioters congeal and act on self-preservation instincts, triggered on encounter with a possible threat therefore the approach should have a legitimate, professional tone which shows authority that wants to contain the situation peacefully with a resolution beneficial for all parties.

It is also obvious that rioters are a crowd/localised collective where people are in close proximity therefore reacts instantly to a common focus or concern. However, there exist a common misconception between crowds and masses where a mass refers to people concerned about a common issue and influence each other’s thoughts but not in close proximities; dispersed collectivities.

Crowds don’t define how to behave or share clear expectations to outcomes; instead share a demand for instant action which directly addresses their common concern. Cohesion is kept by attitudes, ideas and beliefs spreading across the crowd at a fast pace therefore leading members to partake in things deviating from their usual disposition and personality; doing things outside their normal code.

Crowds also break down into separate categories knowing which is beneficial in suppressing them;

  • Casual group; emerge spontaneously and are loosely organised with little interactions prior to formation.
  • Conventional group form with more organisation where phases are planned and acted depending on the situation.
  • Expressive group are formed around events with emotional appeal.
  • Finally, an acting group which is the most hostile among the groups

Leading back to maritime, a possible spark for a riot could be a rise in working hours without a raise in wages, possible violations to human rights of employees and ethnic reasons. (E.g anti-Chinese protests in Vietnamese ports in August 19th due to former’s oil exploration in disputed waters) The most recent of such cases was a protest in a container port in Ningbo, China where truck drivers clashed with riot police and smashing truck windshields; protests erupted due to poor haulage rates being unchanged for 8 years alongside rising diesel prices and longer working hours. (Worldmaritimenews, 2014)

Both situations have risen due to conflict with domestic and foreign authorities where the Vietnam port riots sparked due to matters of patriotism and ethnic identity; connecting Vietnamese people and easily marking the Chinese as enemies and therefore deeming their maritime operations “illegitimate.” So, right off the bat this issue cannot be fixed with brute force from authorities, especially Chinese since it will appear, in the eyes of common Vietnamese people, as a violation and even an invasion. This is made more challenging by the fact that rioters also tend to feel “of low status” against their “oppressors” where this covers economic, social and political aspects. This analogy makes Vietnamese citizens “lowers status” than Chinese who explore for oil.

Since the maritime sphere is dominated by globalisation and international relations, maintaining image is essential as company credibility is on the line which itself determines the future of organisations at hand. Firstly, lethal methods should only be used at last resort when all others fail.

How should you respond if a situation like his erupts? Firstly notification of authority is essential since port security, (which should also be notified) alone is not only incapable to contain the situation but also bad for image since the modern world “mercenary” stigma is warranted and therefore bad for company reputation. However, as authorities may take some time to arrive on-scene it is the responsibility of the security team to contain and diffuse the situation to prevent it from worsening.

Containing the situation should be the duty of an individual security officer as well as the entire team alongside management; leading to the first variable that has to be present for maximum efficiency which is self-control. Psychological warfare, especially in riots is an important factor where odds are mostly against those trying to control the situation, though exceptions exist. Professionalism and impartiality must be employed within security officers while using only necessary force to control the situation; no under or over performing measures should be present; strike only if stricken first. Another factor related to the degree of professionalism is leverage of community support.

The maritime industry, as mentioned above is a globalised industry therefore foreign parties, in order to maintain successful operations must maintain positive relations shoreside; including local authorities and communities. How this is related to riots? Well if riots do get out of hand and increases in magnitude, other bystanders will also suffer therefore it is important to protect everyone from aggression; everyone possible.

If excessive force is applied and consequences such as serious injuries or fatalities occur, this ruins public image and will decrease chances of not only controlling the existing situation but also lowering success rates on future riots. Professionalism is vital to success as it shows that officers are doing their jobs which means removal of other stigmas, (“racist” “nationalist” “police brutality”) from the equation which could arise if excessive force is applied; whereas under-performing would present officers as impotent thus will increase chances of another, more violent riot.

Effective leadership is also important therefore situational awareness are required to detect and address rapid changes; representing security as more alert means representing authority figures as willing to maintain order and therefore pay more attention to the order in ports; showing workers that their actions will always have a result and consequences.