Ports contribute to community resilience

By: Tracie Sempier / Published: May 27,  2016

Ports are an economic driver in the community
Ports play an important role in connecting sea and land operations. Ports are located at the land-sea interface where port and waterway managers live with the inevitable threat of natural hazards. For this reason, Ports face unique challenges in planning for long-term resilience due to their exposure and to the dynamic nature of global and domestic market forces. We know disruptions to port commerce from hurricanes and other coastal storms can have big impacts on the local economy. Therefore, ports should be a part of planning for resilience at the local community level.

Ports are often not included in local government planning discussions
After several years of implementing the Coastal Community Resilience Index, participants commented about the absence of ports in the discussion of community resilience. Local governments understood their importance but few connections had been made to cross-walk community and port emergency plans.

With funding from the NOAA CREST program, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, Louisiana Sea Grant, and MS-AL Sea Grant worked with a group of port experts to produce a Ports Resilience Index (PRI). This self-assessment tool can be used by port marine transportation leaders to determine their level of resilience. After almost two years, the Ports Resilience Index is complete and ready for implementation.

The PRI was developed with broad participation from industry leaders. The PRI Development Team prepared a checklist of possible indicators of resilience for ports using the American Association of Port Authorities 2006 Emergency Best Practices Manual as a starting point.

Lauren Land of Louisiana Sea Grant discusses the Ports Resilience Index with Sea Grant outreach professionals in the Gulf of Mexico.
Lauren Land of Louisiana Sea Grant discusses the Ports Resilience Index with Sea Grant outreach professionals in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ports can benefit from the Ports Resilience Index
As part of the project, three ports volunteered to serve as pilot tests to refine the indicators created by the PRI Development Team. We have developed case studies from these three ports which will be available online this summer (Port of Pascagoula, MS; Port of Corpus Christi, TX; Port of Lake Charles, LA). During these pilot studies, participants noted that the process of bringing together a variety of stakeholders (port managers, Coast Guard, risk management coordinators, engineers, community relations, finance and procurement, Department of Transportation, etc.) was beneficial to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of Port operations and potential response and recovery from future disasters.

The future of port resilience
Moving forward we plan to continue working with the PRI Development Team to identify ports that would like to participate in this self-assessment process. The tool was just released and we already have requests for facilitating the process at two different Port facilities. Local communities can learn so much from being a part of the Port conversation and the same is true of port managers who can learn from the collective knowledge of local governments. Together, we can expand the resilience conversation to ensure we are sharing best practices as we prepare for the next storm.


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