4 PhDs: tackling subversive crime in the Port of Rotterdam, FORT-PORT (NWO)

4 PhDs: tackling subversive crime in the Port of Rotterdam, FORT-PORT (NWO)

Published Deadline Location
12 Jun 3 Sep Rotterdam

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Erasmus School of Law, Department Law, Society & Crime, is looking for 4 PhD researchers.

Job description

Do you want to contribute to a better understanding of the organization of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling through the Port of Rotterdam? Do you want to improve the governance of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling together with the public and private actors in the Port of Rotterdam? Do you want to develop innovative tools like interactive models, dynamic heat maps, crime scripts, and serious games to enable governance actors to intervene proactively? Do you want to work with an interdisciplinary research consortium consisting of academics from criminology, anthropology, law, history, mathematics, network science, computing and information sciences, and public and private actors with governance responsibilities in the PoR? Apply to one of 4 PhD positions (4 years) in the research project FORT-PORT (Focusing On the Right Things in the Port of Rotterdam).

FORT-PORT aims to uncover the criminal business processes, modi operandi and criminal networks underlying cocaine trafficking and human smuggling through the Port of Rotterdam. Ultimately, FORT-PORT contributes to a strong, future-proof port that is acclaimed for its security and its resilience against subversive crime, mindful of the potential economic and societal consequences of raising all possible barriers.

FORT-PORT is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), with Erasmus University Rotterdam as the main applicant. FORT-PORT is organized in 5 work packages. Work package 1 and 3 offer 4 PhD positions and 2 postdoc positions at Erasmus School of Law. You will collaborate with researchers at TU Delft and Utrecht University as well.

PhD project 1 & 2 - Ethnography of illicit flows through the Port of Rotterdam (work package 1a)
Previous research has shed light on the modi operandi of cocaine trafficking in the PoR, the social organisation of human smuggling in the Netherlands, the social embeddedness of organised crime in the Netherlands, and the structural embeddedness of cocaine trafficking in the PoR. We build on these insights by combining different methodologies and theoretical perspectives to advance our understanding of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling via the PoR. More specifically, we aim to uncover the criminal business operations of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling in the PoR, by focusing on:
  1. modi operandi of drug trafficking and human smuggling based on a crime script analysis that examines why and how offenders use logistical, technological, legal, and financial infrastructures in and around the PoR;
  2. social organisation of the criminal networks involved in cocaine trafficking and human smuggling, exploring the modes of cooperation between and within the networks, degrees of specialisation and professionalisation within the networks, and the use of violence between or within the networks;
  3. social embeddedness of cocaine trafficking and human trafficking, describing the ways in which cocaine trafficking and human trafficking are relationally and structurally embedded in and around in the PoR.

In this work package, 2 PhD positions (PhD project 1 & 2) and 1 postdoc (postdoc project 1) positions are available.

PhD project 1 - Social embeddedness of the cocaine economy in Rotterdam
Previous research has documented the social embeddedness of cocaine trafficking in the PoR, but also in different neighbourhoods in the city of Rotterdam. The connection of global licit and illicit flows in the PoR serves as a breeding ground for criminal activities, including running criminal errands, collecting cocaine from port sites, and corrupting port employees to facilitate access to spaces or information about licit and illicit flows in the PoR. Building on a research project on drug collectors commissioned by the municipality of Rotterdam, this ethnographic study will provide insights into the dynamics of social embeddedness and social organisation of cocaine trafficking in the PoR, uncovering how and why (young) people get involved in or resist the cocaine economy in Rotterdam.

Supervisor: dr. Robby Roks

PhD project 2 - Human smuggling networks and migrant communities
Previous research has shown how human smugglers operate within the migrant communities they offer their ‘services’ to, and how these communities link people in the countries of origin with others living in countries of destination. Starting from Rotterdam and its superdiverse neighbourhoods, this ethnographic study will start by engaging with recently arrived migrants and if relevant their transnational communities. Moving back and forth between these transnational connections will lead to new insights in how human smugglers operate, how they are being motivated and respond to governance measures and how they are embedded in the wider society.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. Richard Staring

PhD projects 3 & 4: Scrutinizing the governance of subversive crime in the Port of Rotterdam (work package 3)
The Port of Rotterdam has pioneered public-public and public-private partnerships as well as legislative initiatives and legal proceedings about cocaine trafficking and human smuggling. However, a limited understanding of the bottlenecks, success factors and alternative strategies in combination with a limited ability to implement the lessons learned, stand in the way of improving the governance of subversive crime in the Port. Governance refers to the provision, distribution and regulation of security by public and private actors, specifically focusing on cocaine trafficking and human smuggling. This work package combines an evaluation of the governance partnerships (PhD project 3, postdoc project 2) with the analysis and exploration of different legal avenues (PhD project 4). This work-package will:
  1. Evaluate past and existing public-public and public-private partnerships on cocaine trafficking and human smuggling in the PoR;
  2. Provide project-level feedback about bottlenecks and success factors of public-public and public-private governance of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling;
  3. Develop aggregated feedback about bottlenecks and success factors of public-public and public-private governance of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling to stimulate exchange with other (main)ports in the Netherlands and Europe;
  4. Identify challenges and shortcomings of the existing criminal, administrative and labour legal framework for cocaine trafficking and human smuggling in the logistic process;
  5. Provide a multidisciplinary legal analysis of potential new measures to address cocaine trafficking and human smuggling.

This work package aims to improve the governance of cocaine trafficking and human smuggling in and around the port through an action-oriented research strategy which allows for immediate feedback and continuous internalization of learning experiences.

In this work package, 2 PhD positions and 1 postdoc position are available.

PhD project 3 - Partnerships in the governance of subversive crime in the Port of Rotterdam
Over the last years, the PoR has forged the sharing of governance responsibilities, both through public-public and public-private partnerships. Previous research of the consortium partners has allowed observing these developments closely. The current, more advanced stage of governance comes with its own challenges about keeping oversight of and learning from past and existing initiatives and about sustainably anchoring what works. Contemporary governance is also about keeping governance structures manageable, which involves continuous trust building and staying abreast of current developments. This project aims to evaluate and strengthen the governance of subversive crime in the port. This project uses nodal-networked governance as its analytical framework and takes an action-oriented approach that combines literature review, semi-structured interviews meeting observations, reflection meetings.

Supervisors: prof. Lieselot Bisschop & Prof. Karin van Wingerde

PhD project 4 – Normative framework for governing subversive crime
Public and private actors in the PoR have been at the core of legal developments and legal proceedings about cocaine trafficking and human smuggling. There have been developments in applicable criminal law f.e. the new provision on ‘uithalers’, art. 138aa Criminal Code)), in investigative tools for police and public prosecutors, as well as in administrative legal approaches that are of relevance to the port. An evidence-based evaluation of these legal developments is lacking. The question as to how the wide availability of legal responses supports the governance of subversive crime remains unanswered. Through an action-oriented methodological and legal design, this project analyses and explores these different legal avenues with a focus on criminal and administrative law, and provides a normative legal evaluation of the strategies on subversive crime that will be developed in other work packages of FORT-PORT.

Supervisor: prof. Pieter Verrest


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


We are looking for candidates who:
  • can demonstrate scientific research skills;
  • can demonstrate experience with empirical research methods, specifically with mixed methods research, ethnographic research, and qualitative research methods;
  • have the ability or motivation to work in an interdisciplinary research team;
  • are interested in bridging the science and society gap;
  • have good communication and organizational skills;
  • have excellent oral and written skills in English and Dutch.

For PhD project 1 and 2, we are looking for candidates who:
  • hold a master’s degree in criminology, sociology, anthropology or other discipline relevant for this PhD position.

For PhD project 3, we are looking for candidates who:
  • hold a master’s degree in criminology, sociology, public administration, political science or other discipline relevant for this PhD position;
  • experience with action-oriented or engaged research is a plus.

For project 4, we are looking for candidates who:
  • hold a master’s degree in Dutch criminal law and have an interest in administrative law;
  • have a profound interest in the daily practice of law enforcement (police, public prosecution service) and administrative authorities engaged in combatting cocaine trafficking and human smuggling.

Current master students are welcome to apply. However, appointment will only be possible if the master’s degree has been obtained before the start of the employment contract. You can apply without having proof of obtaining your master’s degree, however, bear in mind that proof of a master’s degree is a formal requirement for employment and must be delivered at least 3 weeks before the start date of the contract.

Conditions of employment

An internationally oriented and varied job in an enthusiastic team, with good working conditions in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU).

The position starts with a temporary employment contract for 18 months. This probationary period consists of an educational programme, offered by Erasmus Graduate School of Law, and individual research and entails an evaluation of the progress of the research after one year. In case of a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended. In the remaining 30-month period PhD researchers focus on their research and the completion of their thesis. In both phases structured guidance is provided by the thesis supervisors and a doctorate committee composed of senior researchers and one of the PhD coordinators of Erasmus Graduate School of Law. Every PhD candidate is supervised by two or three (co-) supervisors.

The start date of this position is between 1 November 2023 and 1 January 2024 and you will be based at the Campus Woudestein - Rotterdam, located at Erasmus School of Law (ESL). The position is for 0,8 fte - 1 fte. The salary is dependent on your experience and knowledge and ranges from a minimum of € 2.541 to a maximum of € 3.247 gross per month on a fulltime basis, in accordance with PhD of the CAO-NU. In addition, we offer an 8% holiday allowance, an end-of-year payment of 8.3%, and a very generous paid leave scheme. Furthermore, EUR is affiliated with ABP for the pension provision, and we offer partially paid parental leave, fully paid extended birth leave for partners, a personal career budget, work-life balance coaches, discounted collective health insurance, and more. As an employee, you can also use EUR facilities such as the University library and receive a discount on subscriptions for the Erasmus sports center.

Erasmus University Rotterdam offers a Dual Career Programme (DCP) to assist the life partners of new academic staff (on payroll) in finding employment in The Netherlands. The programme is offered in close cooperation with the nearby universities of Delft and Leiden.

Erasmus University Rotterdam aspires to be an equitable and inclusive community. We nurture an open culture, where everyone is supported to fulfill their full potential. We see inclusivity of talent as the basis of our successes, and the diversity of perspectives and people as a highly valued outcome. EUR provides equal opportunities to all employees and applicants regardless of gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, age, neurodiversity, functional impairment, citizenship, or any other aspect which makes them unique. We look forward to welcoming you to our community.


Erasmus University Rotterdam

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is an internationally oriented university with a strong social orientation in its education and research, as expressed in our mission ‘Creating positive societal impact’. EUR is home to 3.700 academics and professionals and almost 33.000 students from more than 140 countries. Everything we do, we do under the credo The Erasmian Way – Making Minds Matter. We’re global citizens, connecting, entrepreneurial, open-minded, and socially involved. These Erasmian Values function as our internal compass and create EUR’s distinctive and recognizable profile. From these values, with a broad perspective and with an eye for diversity, different backgrounds and opinions, our employees work closely together to solve societal challenges from the dynamic and cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam. Thanks to the high quality and positive societal impact of our research and education, EUR can compete with the top European universities. www.eur.nl.

Faculty / Institute / Central service
Erasmus School of Law employs 500 members of staff and is attended by around 6000 students. Erasmus School of Law offer bachelor programmes in Law, Tax Law and Criminology, with a focus on active academic learning. The Bachelor's phase is characterised by problem-based learning (PBL). Students can subsequently choose from a wide variety of master programmes. Erasmus School of Law also collaborates in Double Degree programmes combining law and (business) economics or law and business administration and is one of the founders of the European Master in Law & Economics. Once students have completed their master’s degree, they may choose from several postgraduate tracks provided by Erasmus School of Law (in collaboration with Erasmus Academy and others).

At Erasmus School of Law, the fundamental premise of academic research is that law cannot be considered in complete isolation or as an end in itself. It is embedded in an economic and social context that shapes law. At the same time, law shapes society and defines economic relationships. In line with this vision, the mission of Erasmus School of Law is to carry out innovative research on the function of law in its economic and social context. The overarching theme of Erasmus School of Law is therefore 'Where law meets business': Erasmus School of Law is all about the interplay between law, practice and society. Both research and teaching at Erasmus School of Law have a strong social and business orientation. Erasmus School of Law is committed to promoting international and interdisciplinary research, as evidenced by its participation in various international research collaborations.


The Department Law, Society & Crime provides a home to researchers in Criminology, Criminal Law, Sociology of Law and Health Law. Research in the Department focuses on four distinct, albeit interrelated research lines:
  1. The study of phenomena related to unsafety, insecurity, and marginalization, and the social responses to these phenomena, both from a legal normative perspective and an empirical perspective;
  2. The analysis of fundamental assumptions underlying rules and regulations and studying the implementation of regulation, its effectiveness and its legitimacy, and the unintended consequences of the way in which the law is implemented;
  3. The study of actors and professions within the (criminal) justice system, including judicial decisionmaking and the way in which legal professionals operate;
  4. Fundamental legal reflection on the role of legal sanctions, (reforms in) criminal proceedings, and the study of transitions between legal domains including questions about competences between various jurisdictions and authorities.

Thematically, this includes (but is not limited to) research on various forms of crime and harm (environmental crime, juvenile crime, organised and subversive crime, corporate and white-collar crime, fraud, radicalism), medical-ethical issues, migration, diversity, multiculturalism, and processes of inclusion/exclusion, research on the role of legal sanctions, research on different modes of governance and its intended and unintended consequences, and digitalization and the use of big data.

Research in the department is characterized by the multidisciplinary background of its staff (criminal law, criminology, sociology, anthropology, public administration, psychology), often adopts an empirical perspective and applies multiple empirical research methods (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research). Moreover, given the multidisciplinary background of its staff, the Department is particularly well equipped to study international comparative socioeconomic and legal issues that have global causes and are often dealt with nationally or locally.


  • PhD
  • Law
  • 32—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3642


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

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