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Final Port Strategy Article

Posted: December 15, 2011

The final article for the Port Strategy was released recently. Read the full article below:

“Yes, you can do a Marine Risk Assessment, even quite a sophisticated one, which doesn’t go into sufficient detail or misses the point entirely says Captain Stephen Gyi of GAC Training and Service Solutions.

Unfortunately, this ‘missing the point’ can be less an oversight and more of a “commercially driven decision”, he adds.

Outlining a basic process, he explains that a group of experts identify the probable marine related hazards (HAZID) and resulting environmentally related hazards (ENVID), including emergencies such as vessels losing power, colliding or running aground. Obviously, “those risks with potential to endanger life or damage the environment are particularly important to capture”.

The levels of consequence and the likelihood of occurrence are filled out, often on a five-by-five risk matrix. From this the team returns to the beginning and assesses each hazard in turn, which provides a value of either high, medium or low risk, depending on the chosen values for that location, type of cargo and vessel involved, and the scenarios are re-run with projected mitigation measures in place. While there are almost always measures that can be adopted, they usually come with a cost attached, so the idea is get all associated risks down to what industry recognises as ‘as low as reasonably practical’ or ALARP.

However Mr Gyi outlines the nub of the problem. “There is usually sufficient historical marine statistical data to act as a guide for assessing the probability of risk connected with common incidents, such as grounding and collisions, but outside this it’s often a matter of opinion.” He explains that this is why you need marine experts directly involved with safe handling of the vessels in that specific location, from the port authority and pilots to the ships’ captains, coastguard and tugging companies.

“Without having the right people around the table throughout a Marine Risk Assessment,” he says, “you can simply make your risk assessment say what you want it to say”, which obviously isn’t always in everyone’s best interests. He also adds that it should be comprehensive enough to be made transparent, something which, he adds “is seldom the case”.

Mr Gyi also points out that a port’s Marine Risk Assessment should be updated following changes, including the introduction of new terminals or vessels. Importantly, he says that sometimes the process has been sidelined, “where undertaking a proper updated risk assessment would highlight the need for funds for improvements which may not be possible to raise”, says Mr Gyi.


Problems in marine access often start at conception as the decision to build a new terminal or modify a port area is driven, almost exclusively, by a land-side focused investment stream.

For this reason the initial feasibility studies tend to only consider the proposed site location relative to the perceived supply or market for that commodity, and the potential impact on neighbours as evaluated as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

“Unfortunately”, says consultant Stephen Gyi, “this tends to only focus on the proposed land site, with project’s contractors believing their responsibility ends at the berth even without a vessel alongside, and excludes any assessment of the marine aspects of the project – despite the fact the intention is to build a ‘marine terminal’.”

He goes on to say that very often projects don’t get involved in Marine Risk Assessments, believing the port authority’s own risk assessment has been updated and adequately covers the expected changes within its jurisdiction.

“Moreover, most are reluctant to provide access to their latest Marine Risk Assessment, stating this would have an adverse impact should it get out into the public domain,” he says. However when pressured, although some do succumb to letting the project see their risk assessment documentation, the results are often dim.

“At this point, we have found a surprising amount of ports have inadequate Marine Risk Assessments or don’t even bother updating existing ones,” says Mr Gyi. “The fact is, some simply do not see it as being in their remit, even though this leaves them open to litigation if anything goes wrong.”

He concludes that with so much expenditure at stake on a new project, both capital and operational, it’s only “prudent” for a project to undertake its own Marine Risk Assessment along with the other studies, and not assume it will somehow simply be covered along the way.”

We all understand the importance of training, risk assessment,  marine simulation training etc. The above article gives a good indication as to why it is so important to plan and have a strategy.

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