The Concept of Port Resilience

The resilience of Maritime Transportation Systems

Source: Adapted from Linkov, I. and J.M. Palma-Oliviera (eds) (2017) Risk and Resilience, Amsterdam: Springer.

Resilience tests the capacity of a port in three different manners:

  • Absorptive capacity. The ability of a port or a terminal to absorb a disruption while maintaining a level of service. This implies attributes such as robustness, redundancy, and visibility. A robust system is said not to be impacted by some disruptions as it can withstand them. Ports have technical and engineering design characteristics allowing them to withstand geophysical disruptions such as storms, for which they have a level of robustness. Through their redundancy, ports are also able to withstand disruptions by being able to accelerate and expand their operations or by being able to store additional inventory at terminals. Therefore, ports have a technical buffer and a storage buffer to their resilience. Visibility allows port users to access information supporting their operations and make appropriate decisions. Providing real-time information during a disruption reduces the impacts on the related supply chains.
  • Restorative capacity. The ability of a port to recover from a specific disruption to a level of service similar to or even above a baseline. The first element is the ability of a port to provide a response to a disruptive event, mainly through its preparedness and the resources that can be mobilized to contain and abate the disruption. The second element of the restorative capacity involves recovery, with the port able to return to a normal operational state with its associated capacity. After the restorative capacity is brought in, an outcome can be a capacity loss, as recovery leads to lower levels of efficiency. Another possible outcome is that the disruption becomes a “learning event” allowing for a capacity gain and more efficient operations.
  • Adaptive capacity. The ability of a port to change its operations and even its management either as anticipation or a reaction to a disruption. It involves flexibility, where a port can adjust its operations to mitigate disruptions, such as changing its schedule and workflows. A port can also have a level of agility, being able to respond rapidly to disruptions, including having a workforce capable of performing various tasks outside those they usually perform. Through collaboration, cargo can be routed through different terminals within the same port or through different ports. If a port is part of a port system with a well-connected hinterland, its adaptive capacity is improved by using other ports temporarily through collaborative efforts. Last, a port can rely on communication to inform stakeholders accurately of changes they are implementing such that they can adjust their own operations. A port such also be able to receive and process information from third parties such as carriers.