Quantifying Resiliency of Maritime Transportation Systems

Worldwide, maritime transportation networks facilitate the movement of nearly 90 percent of total world trade and 60 percent of global fuel and oil delivery. In 2011, US foreign and domestic waterborne trade totaled more than 2.1 billion metric tons of goods, with 62.5 percent of this total bound for international destinations. This total also accounted for about 15 percent of total global waterborne trade activity. Waterborne shipping has increased at an average annual rate of nearly one percent between 2009 and 2012. This trend is expected to continue, if not increase significantly, as emerging markets enter the global economy. The U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) is a complex network consisting of hundreds of deep-draft coastal ports connected to thousands of miles of inland river channels and other maintained navigable waterways. As with most interdependent, dynamic networks, domestic and international markets are susceptible to disruptions because even a single severe event could have cascading effects that can disrupt freight transportation throughout the country. Similar to traffic backups on interstate freeways, disruptions in navigation channels can also cause delays, and congestion that propagates rapidly and widely throughout the broader MTS. This leads to concerns that even a single, isolated, disruptive event like a storm, terrorist act, or shipping accident can have devastating system-wide impacts. The threat of natural disasters and human-caused disruptions has driven the need for robust and objective performance evaluation methods to quantify the resiliency of maritime systems. Previous work in this area has found that, in general, measures of time, cost, capacity, and environmental impact should be included to evaluate overall MTS performance. However, the real challenge has been in recognizing quantifiable and reliable parameters which are consistently collected and archived in order to enable the initial disruptive impacts to be quantified and also allow the subsequent recovery characteristics of maritime systems to be analyzed in terms of resiliency. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) maintains its Nationwide Automatic Identification System (NAIS) to collect real-time traffic data on waterborne vessels that operate in the US territorial waters (USCG Acquisition Directorate, 2013). Transceivers on board the vessels broadcast an AIS signal via very high frequency (VHF) band radio waves, which relay their position, heading, speed, and other identifying information to shore-based towers with a reporting interval of several seconds. In addition to providing a “live picture” of waterway traffic conditions, the NAIS provides an archive covering several years containing individual vessel position reports. Among other valuable research endeavours, this large archived dataset enables rigorous, quantitative analysis of vessel patterns and waterway performance trends in both coastal and inland navigable waterways. This research will leverage and adapted archival NAIS data for resilience analyses of coastal port operations following disruptive events. As part of this effort, archival vessel position reports will used to establish a baseline of channel operations under “routine” non-event conditions. Observed losses in system functionality following a major disruption will be used to quantify the resiliency of the waterway using time dependent performance analysis. This type of analysis is critical when investigating the efficacy of the recovery process protocols and management strategies employed in the days and weeks that follow a major disruptive event. In the case studies presented herein, the measurement of system resiliency is expressed in terms of vessel dwell time and net vessel transit counts into and out of the port area. To illustrate an application of this approach, two recent disruptions experienced in critical, high-use commercial ports are analyzed. The first is the closure of the Houston Ship Channel, Texas for a period of 4 days in March 2014 following a collision of a bulk carrier with am underway barge tow. The second case study considers the disruptions to the Port of New York-New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The primary contribution of this research is that it represents some of the first steps toward creating a systematic, objective means of measuring commercial port resiliency. The methods developed here can be used as a basis for future studies of post-disaster operations and protocols, such as evaluations of channel operations after a disruption so as to better understand MTS characteristics that increase resiliency.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Collection and analysis of the relevant literature in the related fields of NAIS data, port operations and resiliency analysis are complete. Preliminary development of model capable of processing NAIS data to provide reliable estimates of port operations is complete.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Performing Organizations:

    Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

    P.O. Box 94245, Capitol Station
    Baton Rouge, LA  United States  70803
  • Principal Investigators:

    Wolshon, Brian

  • Start Date: 20151001
  • Expected Completion Date: 20180601
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01582886
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Maritime Transportation Research and Education Center
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Dec 14 2015 2:46PM