Risk of Earthquake for Global Container Ports

Risk of Earthquake for Global Container Ports

Source: Earthquake risk from “The World Map of Natural Hazards”, Munchener Ruckversicherungs-Gesellschaft (Munchener Re), Koniginstrasse 107, D-8000 Munchen 40, Germany.”

Note: MMI stands for Modified Mercalli Intensity scale, which ranks from I (not felt) to XII (extreme catastrophic). Probable MMI is the 20% probability of an earthquake event of a specific scale over a 50 years period. Only ports above 100,000 TEU of activity in 2016 are displayed.

Due to the positioning of tectonic plates, ports are exposed to the significant geographical distribution of risk. As container ports have a life span of at least 50 years, it is almost certain that all container ports will be exposed to an earthquake event. What will differ is the intensity of this event. Some areas have a high risk of a high-intensity earthquake taking place over a period of half a century, while for others, only a low-intensity earthquake can be expected for the same time period. Ports bordering the Pacific Plate, also known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, are at a particularly high risk since most of the largest earthquake events of the last century took place in that region.

Areas of high tectonic risk are associated with a lower level of economic and port activity. For instance, 34 container ports (19% of all ports) in very high MMI risk areas (IX scale and above) account for only 4.7% of the total TEU handled. Japan and the Pacific Coast of the Americas are areas of particularly high risk. Other areas of high port activity have a very low risk, such as around the Strait of Malacca, Australia, Northern Europe, the Baltic, the American Eastern Seaboard, and the Gulf Coast.