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Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Editor-in-Chief: Renda-Tanali, Irmak

Managing Editor: McGee, Sibel

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‘Set Adrift’: Fatalism as Organizational Culture at Canadian Seaports

Kevin F. Quigley / Bryan Mills
Published Online: 2016-02-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2015-0030


This paper takes an anthropological approach to understanding the governance of seaport security in Canada; it uses cultural theory and the concepts of regulation and integration as key determinants in understanding how organizations respond to risk. This paper draws on data from 29 semi-structured interviews with transportation specialists, including owners, operators, managers and regulators. Nine of the interview subjects came from seaports, in particular. The interviews occurred between 2011 and 2013. We argue that Canadian seaports exist in an area of confusing multi-level governance; they are immovable, are expected to be competitive and serve a number of (at times competing) public and private sector interests. These institutional arrangements have resulted in a security environment that is heavily regulated, but the community itself is not well integrated. Interview subjects raise concerns about the ports’ ability to respond to security threats. The paper then uses cultural theory to examine alternative governance arrangements enhancing, for example, community, competition or regulation. While most options to improve security will likely reduce the competitiveness of the seaports, it would help to instill more confidence among port staff and enhance organizational learning.

Keywords: critical infrastructure; cultural theory; governance; organizational culture; seaports; security


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About the article

Published Online: 2016-02-17

Published in Print: 2016-04-01

Citation Information: Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Volume 13, Issue 1, Pages 191–218, ISSN (Online) 1547-7355, ISSN (Print) 2194-6361, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jhsem-2015-0030.

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