Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code

SASS9170524 (Macau project) SASS9180524 (Peru project)


School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Start dates

October 2024

Application deadline

31 May 2024

Applications are invited for two fully-funded three year PhDs, with opportunities for visiting scholarships; one in Macau (SAR China) and one in Callao (Peru) respectively, to commence in October 2024. 

The Centre for Port Cities and Maritime Cultures (PCMC) is delighted to announce opportunities for doctoral research in the field of humanities and social science for two PhDs on the first phase of the ‘Sail to Steam, Carbon to Green: Empowering Port Communities in the Global South’ project. 

The PhD is funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) and supported by the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Port Cities and Maritime Culture in the School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics and Literature. The students will be supported in the field by the University of Macau and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru who will host their respective students as visiting scholars. Additional research and dissemination support is offered by Macau Maritime Museum and the Naval Museum of Callao. 

The PhDs will be based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be supervised by the project leaders Dr Melanie Bassett, Professor Brad Beaven, Dr Karl Bell and Dr Rudolph Ng.

The overarching theme of ‘Sail to Steam, Carbon to Green’ is to seek to understand the role of local knowledge and the impact of sail to steam shipping on communities and the infrastructure of international sea ports in the Global South. This will be underpinned by four PhD studies which will provide rigorous scholarly research for comparative analysis of the heritage and attitudes of people in the Global South in regard to maritime technological change and its consequences. 

The successful candidate will help to develop contemporary responses to historical and future energy transitions, and undertake visiting scholarships in either Macau or Lima and Callao. Each studentship includes full fees, bursary, an additional travel bursary to support international research and dissemination, and access to a community engagement fund. 

This doctoral-level research programme will consist of a cross-disciplinary study combining historical research and social scientific data collection. Each study will set the context for an identified port city throughout the period of sail to steam energy transition, and also measure its effects and impacts on the communities and cultures which have remained or have grown from the creation of global port cities. The project focuses on the past, present and future importance of urban-maritime cultures and communities within a global context, which align with the key research themes of PCMC. Working with academics, creative practitioners, funders and local community groups, the project will explore the relationships between urban and maritime spaces and seek to bring in local voices.

This exciting opportunity includes a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£19,237 for 2024/25). Bursary recipients will also receive a £1,500 p.a. for project costs/consumables. It also includes a generous travel allowance for the student to conduct national and international research, and a ‘community engagement fund’ to enable the student to co-produce impactful responses to the historical research and current challenges associated with energy transition. Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.    


By working on this project you’ll:

  • Gain privileged access to LRF’s extensive maritime archive to provide new insights into the social, cultural and environmental effects of fossil fuelled maritime industry, and new proposals to shift towards green solutions. 
  • Benefit from the Centre of Port Cities and Cultures’ wealth of knowledge and international networks while simultaneously showcasing cutting-edge research.
  • Acquire enhanced doctoral programme training from the University of Portsmouth and gain valuable skills in organising an international workshop and disseminating your research into scholarly and publically-accessible formats. 
  • Be supported in your research and gain experience in different cultural settings and working environments via Visiting Scholarships, collaborations with local maritime museums, and with community stakeholders in the Global South.


This project will learn from maritime energy transitions of the past to inform how the move to carbon-neutral shipping will impact coastal communities in the Global South in the twenty-first century. These often marginalised coastal communities have historically been under-resourced and today are at the forefront of climate change, and issues of safety impacts and resilience. The project will have a real-world impact on the maritime sector in learning lessons from the nineteenth-century energy transition from sail to steam. It will also uncover the past and present voices of local coastal communities, to articulate their historical and contemporary opinions on the impact of maritime technological change and climate adaptation.

The energy transition from sail to steam provoked a profound transformation in maritime environments, technologies, and cultures across the globe in the nineteenth century, and there is every indication that decarbonisation will have comparable impacts in the twenty-first century. Most existing studies have focused on the technological shifts within vessels and the impact this had on international trade, rather than how it changed work, lives, and environments in port and coastal communities. UNESCO’s ‘Ocean Decade’ (2021-2031) seeks to promote a more informed view of the ocean and its resources. However, while it seeks to raise awareness of how the ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected, their agenda overwhelmingly emphasises the science behind the changing oceanic environment, coastal ecologies, and economies. This does not account for the deep-rooted and complex ways in which people may come to identify with and understand their environment. As such, the stories and historical experiences of coastal communities continue to be eclipsed, especially in the Global South. This project will advance the need to incorporate perspectives from the humanities into this analysis, to enhance our understanding of the perceptions and human consequences of technological and ecological change.


Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

  • You must be eligible and prepared to live and work for periods of time in Portsmouth and their respective case study cities of Macau and Callao. 
  • You must be willing to collaborate and co-produce outputs with community groups and other stakeholders.
  • Willingness to work with members of the Centre for Port Cities and Maritime Cultures (University of Portsmouth), and Lloyd’s Register Heritage and Education Centre to produce podcasts, blogs and educational material based on your research. 
  • Understanding of, or willingness to learn:
    • PhD 1 - Macau: basic Chinese and Portuguese 
    • PhD 2 - Peru: Spanish

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Melanie Bassett ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SASS9170524 (Macau project) or SASS9180524 (Peru project)  when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.