Winner 2015

University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, 2015 R&D Award Winner

Identifying and evaluating emerging risks from marine transportation

The winner of the 4th ITOPF R&D Award is the University of Washington, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs based in Seattle (WA), USA.

The aim of the project is to provide information to inform spill preparedness and response in the future. The researchers propose to do this by identifying emerging risks, correlating the preparedness and response challenges they represent with historical practices, and documenting gaps in practice and communication.


Who is the lead organisation?

School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, USA

The School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) is a professional masters' degree program that educates students about contemporary issues in marine systems, policy, and management. The Emerging Risks project's co-principal investigators, SMEA faculty members Drs Bob Pavia and Tom Leschine, have researched and published extensively on emergency preparedness and response. Dr Pavia, the project lead, formerly served as Chief of US NOAA's Hazardous Materials Response Division, while Dr Leschine recently chaired the US National Research Council's Marine Board.

Three SMEA graduate students are key members of the project team. The University of Washington (UW), located in Seattle, Washington, is one of the world's pre-eminent public universities, currently ranked 10th in the world in the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings. It educates more than 54,000 students annually and receives more federal research dollars annually than any other public university.


Why did ITOPF decide to fund this research?

The ITOPF R&D Award Committee realises the potential challenges posed to marine transportation due to technology developments, changing patterns of trade, and climate change. With mega-ships entering into trade, Arctic sea routes developing and North American oil exports increasing, new marine transportation risks are emerging. The need to understand how to best prepare efficient and effective response to these risks is clear.

This project seeks to identify emerging marine transportation risks and identify the preparedness and response challenges they represent. Unveiling these risks and preparedness and response challenges will equip ITOPF and other organisations with suitable knowledge to prepare for future incidents. Furthermore ITOPF recognises that this approach may have broader possibility to evaluate alternate factors facing the industry and further assist future preparedness and response efforts.


What are the objectives of this project?

1. Developing Technology - the emerging risks posed by mega-container and mega-bulker vessels, and Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessels

This objective seeks to identify the potential risks that emerge from developing technologies in the marine transportation industry such as: the emergence of mega-ships and the challenges presented to salvage workers and pollution responders, the use of LNG as a method of propulsion and the reliance on electronic navigational systems coupled with minimally-manned crews.

2. Changing patterns of trade - the potential impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal and the changing export/import of oil from US waters

This objective is aimed at understanding how changes in canals, shipping routes, and ports will alter patterns of shipping among nations and the potential occurrence of allisions, collisions, groundings and other incidents. Major areas of this objective include the expansion of the Panama and Suez Canal, the developing Arctic shipping routes and the vision of a future Nicaraguan Canal.

3. Changing environment - the risks associated with increased frequency of extreme weather events and changing ice patterns

This objective seeks to understand the forecasts for future weather events and ice patterns and how that will affect the marine transportation industry. Increased frequency and intensity of storms, sea level rise and the increased usage of icebreakers will all play a significant role in successfully unravelling this objective.

In order to provide a frame for defining emerging risks the project will consider three periods of 'risk', which are as follows:

The present to approximately 36 months:

Examining risks that will occur and are heading to the market

Approximately 4-10 years:

Looking at risks that may likely occur unless adequate measures are taken

10-20 years +

Changes or trends that could occur with developing business or changing climate