Preparing ports for the storm

A new peer-reviewed study on key Australian ports looks at risks and resilience for both the port environment and its core infrastructure when facing expected impacts from climate change.

With over 80 per cent of world trade carried by sea, ports essential to access global markets will face challenges over the coming decades due to climate change. In response, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) commissioned a multi-disciplinary team from RMIT University to carry out research on ‘Enhancing the Resilience of Seaports to a Changing Climate’.

The researchers worked directly with the ports to understand their needs and deliver tailored climate information for Gladstone, Sydney and Kembla. To make Australia’s seaports more resilient to climate risks, researchers developed a new software tool to help port engineers decide how infrastructure maintenance might change over the next 70 years, using six different possible climate futures. This will be the foundation to develop a national web-based decision-support toolkit to help Australian seaports plan to adapt to climate change.

As a critical link in global supply chains, each port will need to evaluate local risks in their partnerships with key logistics providers and local governments.  This research has delivered five key outputs summarised below:

Synthesis of research and implications for policy & practice: Enhancing the Resilience of Seaports to a Changing Climate

This report synthesises the research findings from the Climate Resilient Seaports project funded by NCCARF and conducted between 2011 and 2012. The intention of the project was to contribute to an emerging knowledge base relating to climate change and seaports, to test and refine assessment methodologies, and to develop tools to assist decision-making by port personnel. The content of this report draws directly from the research carried out for the three work packages. These include: 1) understanding future risks, 2) functional resilience of the port environs, and 3) structural resilience of core port infrastructure. The report also reflects on the key challenges and opportunities facing researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in making Australia’s seaports more resilient to future climate risks.

This includes climate information packs, produced to provide accessible and relevant climate information for the Ports of Gladstone, Sydney and Kembla. Both past climate observations and future climate projections can inform broader risk management and support decision-making that enables successful adaptation to climate change.

Climate change adaptation guidelines for ports: Enhancing the Resilience of Seaports to a Changing Climate

This adaptation guidance document distils some of the key research findings from each of the project work packages in support of climate change adaptation decision-making. It is important to recognise that identifying risk is not a purely quantitative evaluation; it also involves qualitative decisions about the importance of the identified risks and which risks should be taken into account. Due to cascading impacts, it is also appropriate for ports to consider risks in partnership with key logistics providers and / or local governments. It is intended that these insights can inform and strengthen individual site-specific port assessments, and be used to test the assumptions held by ports.

Understanding future risks to ports in Australia: Enhancing the Resilience of Seaports to a Changing Climate

Understanding future risks to ports in Australia is the first work package of the Climate Resilient Seaports project. This document reports on research carried out to better understand the complexity (and uncertainty) of the future climate and non-climate risks that are likely to affect future port operations in Australia. The activity involved close liaison with both information providers and the case study ports, with the collation of quantitative and qualitative data to inform the assessments of functional and infrastructural resilience (project work packages 2 and 3). The report highlights some of the many challenges involved when assessing the risks that Australian ports need to contend with; not only contributing to the knowledge-base but also providing detail of an integrated assessment methodology that can be replicated for other cases.

Functional resilience of port environs in a changing climate – assets and operations: Enhancing the Resilience of Seaports to a Changing Climate

Functional resilience of port environs in a changing climate is the second work package of the Climate Resilient Seaports project. A functional response to climate change requires a better understanding of the characteristics of commodity trade and related port logistics operations. The purpose of this research was to develop a methodological framework for systematically identifying the vulnerability of port assets, infrastructure, and logistics operations to weather-related impacts and future climate change in the context of Australian ports. To this end a GIS-enabled methodology provided visual information of the vulnerability of port assets and an agent based model was developed to simulate the likely impacts of climate-related extreme events on port operations. The work package also investigated the implications for operations practice, and options to increase the adaptive capacity of the ports workforce. 

Structural resilience of core port infrastructure in a changing climate: Enhancing the Resilience of Seaports to a Changing Climate

Structural resilience of core port infrastructure in a changing climate is the third work package of the Climate Resilient Seaports project. It identifies key port infrastructure elements affected by climate change, investigates the deterioration mechanisms relevant to these structural components, and forecasts the rate of deterioration of structures over a period for which climate scientists could provide the necessary projections. The output is presented in the form of a software tool which addresses a number of deterioration mechanisms which affect port structures, according to six different climate futures. This will allow a port engineer to ascertain the changes needed in maintenance of port infrastructure over a 70-year time horizon. A methodology for calculating the changes to the life cycle cost of port structures is also presented with demonstration of the application of the method using three case study examples.  

For more information about the project and to download the reports please click here.

 

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