Functional resilience of port environs in a changing climate

10 Apr 2013

The growing importance of logistics in increasingly globalised production and consumption systems strengthens the case for explicit consideration of the climate risks that may impact on the operation of ports in the future, as well as the formulation of adaptation responses that act to enhance their resilience. Within a logistics chain, seaports are functional nodes of significant strategic importance, and are considered as critical gateways linking local and national supply chains to global markets. However, they are more likely to be exposed to vagaries of climate-related extreme events due to their coastal locations. As such, they need to be adaptive and respond to the projected impacts of climate change, in particular extreme weather events. These impacts are especially important in the logistics context as they could result in varying degrees of business interruption; including business closure in the worst case scenario. Since trans-shipment of freight for both the import and export of goods and raw materials has a significant impact on Australia’s sustained economic growth it was considered important to undertake a study of port functional assets, to assess their vulnerability to climate change, to model the potential impacts of climate-related extreme events, and to highlight possible adaptation responses.

In order to understand the vulnerability of port logistics operations to climate-related extreme events, a first key step was to develop a comprehensive assets register. This can then be used as the platform to inform the spatial modelling of ports and their environs, as well as enabling the development of a decision support system to assist with evidence-based port infrastructure planning and operations management. The methodological framework developed in this project enables Australian ports to:


  • map and assess the vulnerability of key functional assets to climatic hazards , informed by local knowledge and expertise ;
  • model intra-port container flows and develop a systematic assessment of different ‘what if’ scenarios associated with extreme weather events that are of most concern to port operations, perturbed by future climate scenarios;
  • consider strategies that strengthen the adaptive capacity of the workforce; and
  • access an integrated risk management framework that provides guidance for ports when developing tailored adaptation strategies. Adaptive capacity and the implementation of options are both considered, and are highlighted in a separate stand-alone project report on adaptation guidelines.


Three ports (Port Kembla Port Corporation, Sydney Port Corporation and Ports of Gladstone) were selected as case studies for the project.

Authors: Prem Chhetri (RMIT University) Jonathan Corcoran (The University of Queensland) Victor Gekara (RMIT University) Brian Corbitt (RMIT University) Nilmini Wickramasinghe (RMIT University) Gaya Jayatilleke (RMIT University) Fatima Basic (RMIT University) Helen Scott (RMIT University) Alex Manzoni (RMIT University) Chris Maddox (The University of Queensland)

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