Risky Business: Can We Believe Port Risk Assessments?

by John R. Harrald, George Washington Univ, Washington, United States,
Thomas A. Mazzuchi, George Washington Univ, Washington, United States,
Christopher M. Stone, George Washington Univ, Washington, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Ports '92


What is the risk that a maritime incident resulting in catastrophic consequences (environmental damage or loss of life) could occur in a U.S. port or waterway? How does one calculate the risk of something that has never happened? Why do we base our policies on the analysis of statisticians rather than on the judgements of mariners and other maritime experts? Public policy is now being made based upon quantitative analyses that are perceived to be valid since they are based on mathematical techniques. When applied to the problem of predicting rare maritime events, however, these methodologies are misleading and could lead to poor policy decisions. The premise of this paper is that the methodologies used by the U.S. Coast Guard and others to assess risk in U.S. ports and waterways are fatally flawed since historical statistics that are poor predictors for rare events and furthermore they do not consider the potential future impact of current trends.

Subject Headings: Ports and harbors | Risk management | Waterways | Statistics | Public policy | Accidents | Disasters and hazards | Quantitative analysis | United States

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