Tag Archives: risk

SHIPPING: Risk of tankers on Fraser River, Canada, ‘acceptable’: port study

This is an interesting article involving risk assessment and the maritime industry — with a link to the full report.

By Jeff Nagel – Richmond Review

Published: June 08, 2012 3:00 PM
Updated: June 08, 2012 3:17 PM

A study for Port Metro Vancouver concludes it’s feasible to send tankers into the lower Fraser River to supply jet fuel to Vancouver International Airport and the risks are “broadly acceptable.”

It found the likelihood of a spill damaging the environment is “improbable” but recommends a series of safeguards to further reduce the risks if such a project advances.

The Fraser River Tanker Traffic Study, prepared by consultants Det Norske Veritas, was commissioned by the port in response to a proposal to bring jet fuel by tankers to a terminal on the river at No. 7 road and then send it by underground pipeline through Richmond to the airport.

The study considered scenarios such as ships colliding, a tanker running aground due to human error or adrift due to mechanical failure, a fire or explosion and the risk of accidents while a tanker is moored at a riverside terminal.

It calls for tugs to escort tankers with hazardous cargo and for enhanced emergency response capabilities on the river.

Other recommendations include tighter regulation of vessel traffic on the lower Fraser and various navigation aids so pilots aboard the vessels would know precisely how much water is between the keel and the river bed.

It also argues any terminal on the river should be shielded from other shipping traffic with some sort of fender-like structure to reduce the risk of another ship hitting a moored tanker.

“It shows there are some mitigations that need to be put in place to ensure safety,” said Port Metro Vancouver harbour master Yoss Leclerc.

The study was not limited to the river entrance, but considered the potential for tanker traffic as far upstream as the Pattullo Bridge.

Leclerc said the scope was based on the physical limit of how far deep sea tankers can travel, adding there are no specific proposals he’s aware of further upriver toward New Westminster or Surrey.

But Richmond Coun. Harold Steves said he thinks the study has set the stage for more tanker proposals.

“Once you’ve established the right of tankers to come up the river, who knows where they’ll go,” he said. “We could end up with a major tanker port.”

Steves said he suspects the Fraser River could emerge as a backup terminal for Kinder Morgan, if its plan to twin its Trans Mountain oil pipeline and send many more crude oil tankers out through Burrard Inlet runs into too much opposition in Vancouver.

“Once they can use tankers to carry jet fuel on the river, what’s to stop them from carrying crude?”

The only specific proposal so far for liquid shipments on the Fraser is the one from the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corp., although it has not yet made a formal application.

Critics say it would pose unacceptable risks to the Fraser estuary’s important habitat for salmon, birds and other marine life.

Steves said he’s not surprised the port-funded study essentially gives a green light to river tankers, despite heavy opposition in Richmond.

“The whole question of tankers coming up the river to provide jet fuel for the airport has been broken down into little isolated components,” Steves said, adding separate hearings are looking into the planned pipeline.

“We never get the overall picture. So we’re being piecemealed to death on a project that has problems throughout its scope.”

The tanker study found two out of 62 accidents on the south arm of the Fraser in the past five years involved deep water vessels and none have been serious leading to significant pollution or fatalities.

It also concluded the Fraser River bottom is mainly soft sand and would not likely damage a tanker’s hull if there were contact. All tankers transiting the river would have to have double hulls, it added, and be under the control of local pilots.

See also the study’s full report and its summary.

Source: http://www.richmondreview.com/news/158241665.html


Leave a comment

Filed under News

Good Risk Management Means No Buck-Passing

BRIAN BARNIER | Harvard Business Review

We’ve all experienced buck-passing. In customer support, for example — each time dialing a new number and grinding your way through the options. This wastes time for users and damages corporate reputations. Yet, nobody dies in buck-passing — right?

Tragically, sometimes they do. Eight people were killed and more injured in the San Bruno, Calif., pipeline explosion in September 2010. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) estimated that 47.6 million standard cubic feet of natural gas were released. The gas exploded, the fire destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70. Firefighting operations continued for two days.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report that cited multiple failures by PG&E and government regulators. In reading through the NTSB’s 28 findings, 29 new recommendations, and 10 repeated recommendations, I started to see a pattern that looked a bit like buck-passing:

• Why didn’t PG&E conduct pressure tests? Regulators didn’t require them. So what? PG&E could still have conducted intelligent risk management in the interest of its own shareholders.

• PG&E didn’t have a comprehensive emergency response plan. According to the NTSB findings, it took PG&E over 15 minutes to understand what its sensor readings meant, more time to understand the problem, over 90 minutes to turn off the gas. Why an insufficient plan? Where there no best practices to turn to? Was this a brand-new situation to the world? Of course not: PG&E had been through a fatal pipeline explosion in 2008. In addition, consider the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s post-Katrina updated material on incident management systems, which includes free online training.

• Next, why didn’t the California regulators act? Lack of knowledge? Nope, lots of that available. Maybe a lack of resources? That’s a good one — so pass the buck to the governor and legislature.

We all, having spent time in complex organizations, know how easy it is to pass the buck. Organizations have lots of built in excuses — functional silos, product silos, geographic silos, communication, chain of command, budget allocations and codes, turf, “before my time.” This plays out daily in product failures, supply chain disruptions, frauds, missed sales forecasts and more.

“Buck-Passing Risk” can be measured in two ways. First, the process risk tracked by metrics such as organizational tolerance for poor clarity in roles, accountability, transparency and limited depth of analysis. Second, the outcome risk — the “bad things” that happen in financial and operational performance metrics as a result of the process problems. Buck-passing risk is insidious because it can become so pervasive and exacerbate so many other risks. It’s like a tough weed in your lawn: when drought comes, it survives better than the rest of the lawn.

The choice facing you is how to act to measure and proactively manage this risk. Not just with a policy and wall-poster campaign that says “Be Accountable,” but with a set of principles from the board of directors down that establishes proper conduct and demonstrates that behavior throughout the entire organization. Middle managers must model and transmit the CEO’s directive to the front line, and front-line employees must own risk management. They are often the eyes, ears, and hands on whom people’s lives (or at least livelihoods) depend when it comes to detecting the gas leak, or finding and shutting off the valve. They are the heroes of action movies and real life.

Too many people just take the easy way out by passing the buck — outta sight, outta mind, off my desk, not my problem. Stomping out buck passing rivets people to “in charge” roles, spotlights the risk they own and fosters risk-return balance in decisions. This clarity strengthens people to press forward with the case to prevent. Changing the human dynamics around buck passing can be your catalyst for saving human lives and fortunes.

Brian Barnier, of ValueBridge Advisors, is the author of The Operational Risk Handbook for Financial Companies (Harriman House, 2011).

Thanks to @Jensenmaritime for retweeting the link to the article: that was how I became aware of it. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Electronic navigation charts could save ships

SATNAVS are something that most of us use without a second thought. But what happens at sea?

Like drivers, maritime navigators can choose from a range of options, including GPS, paper maps, radar and ordinary radio communications. They can also use the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) – a kind of Google Maps for ships. It integrates GPS, radar and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) – which broadcasts to ships via radio signals – and displays a vessel’s position on an electronic map in real time, along with precise readings of the local water depth.
Next year a mandate from the UN International Maritime Organization will go into effect, requiring many international commercial ships to use ECDIS. So why has it not been made compulsory sooner?

The consequences of shipping disasters can be far-reaching. As New Scientist went to press, the 236-metre container ship Rena had already leaked some 350 tonnes of oil, having crashed into the Astrolabe reef off New Zealand on 5 October. And the effects of the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 are still being felt along the coast of Alaska.

These are not isolated incidents. Last year 211 large ships suffered “serious casualties” when they ran aground or became stranded, according to the London-based shipping news service Lloyd’s List.

ECDIS will reduce the number of ships that run aground by 38 per cent, according to a 2007 study by Rolf Skjong at risk management firm Det Norske Veritas in Høvik, Norway. “It is the best navigation aid that has come out since radar,” says Ian Rodrigues at the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Tasmania.

The IMO evidently agrees – it wants all ships built after mid-2012 to be fitted with ECDIS. Existing ships have different compliance dates depending on whether they carry passengers or cargo, but all commercial vessels must be upgraded by mid-2018.

One reason for ECDIS’s slow adoption is that navigators are simply used to old-fashioned paper. “Maritime organisations were already busy making paper charts,” says Nick Lemon of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. What’s more, in May 2008 detailed electronic charts were available for only 60 per cent of the world’s water. Now, around 90 per cent is digitally charted.

Autopilot technology, too, could improve safety. It hooks into the boat’s rudder and is already widely used, though not mandatory under the new rules, says Jeff Watts at the AMC. When combined with ECDIS, it can sound alarms and provide visual information to alert crew when ships enter dangerously shallow waters. But whether this could have prevented the Rena running aground is unclear – it is not known what navigation devices were in use on the ship.


Source: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228356.400-electronic-navigation-charts-could-save-ships.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles

Pitfalls of Leadership: The Availability Heuristic

You are a biased leader. There, I said it! The thing is, I’m biased too. People in general are prone to a number of errors in judgment, and while being aware of them is no sure fix against leading poorly, it’s at least a start. This will be Part One of a six part series on leadership bias; I hope our coverage of this topic gives you some tools with which to adjust your thought process the next time you find yourself needing to make an important decision.


Let’s begin by having you name all the words you can that begin with the letter “K.” Go on, I’m not listening. How many were you able to come up with? Now, let’s have you name all of the words in which K is the third letter. How many could you name? If you are like most people, you found it easier to generate a list of words that begin with K – the words probably came to you more quickly and were more plentiful in number. But, did you know that there are three times as many words in which K is the third letter? If that’s the case, why is it so much easier to create a list of words that start with K?

It turns out that our mind’s retrieval process is far from perfect, and that a number of biases play into our ability to recall information (and thus, use that information to lead objectively). Our memory is better for things at the beginning and the end of a list (like the letter K), things that are scary, and things that are incomplete. If asked to assess the prevalence of Words Beginning With K vs. Words With K As The Third Letter, you likely would have picked the former because of this fallibility in your memory retrieval mechanism. Psychologists call this the “availability heuristic”, which simply means that we predict the likelihood of an event based on things we can easily call to mind. Unfortunately for us, the imperfections of the availability heuristic are hard at work as we go about our management responsibilities and make decisions that impact the business.


Roughly five years ago, I had just recently married my wife and we had moved to the North Shore of Hawaii for a six month internship. Although our lodging was humble, we were thrilled to be together in Paradise and were eager to immerse ourselves in all the local culture and natural beauty had to offer.That is, until I turned on Shark Week. For the uninitiated, Shark Week is the Discovery Channel’s seven day binge of all things finned and scary. A typical program begins by detailing sharks’ predatory powers, refined over aeons of evolution, as they are brought to bear on the lives of some unlucky surfers (FYI – surfers look like seals from below). As the show nears it’s end, the narrator typically makes the requisite plea for appreciating these noble beasts, a message that has inevitably been overridden by the previous 58 minutes of fear-mongering.

For one week straight, I sat transfixed by the accounts of one-legged surfers undeterred by their ill fortune and waders who had narrowly escaped with their lives. Heretofore an excellent swimmer and ocean lover, I resolved at the end of that week that I would not set foot in Hawaiian waters, and indeed I did not. So traumatized was I by the availability of bad news, that I found myself unable to muster the courage to snorkel, dive, or do any of the other activities I’d so looked forward to just a week ago.


The parallels between a tourist surrounded by water watching Shark Week, and a leader glued to the latest Doomsday Prophet on cable news are almost too obvious to mention. Just as Shark Week is Discovery’s Sweeps Week darling, the dour and naysaying have become the bread and butter of the 24 hour cable news cycle. But whether your favorite talking head is bullish or bearish, the fact is that their opinion looms larger in your mind than it ought to, and impacts the way you lead your organization. To return briefly to my cowardice, consider the facts about the likelihood of a shark attack – the odds of me getting away with murder (1 in 2), being made a Saint (1 in 20 million), and having my pajamas catch on fire (1 in 30 million), were all exponentially greater than me being bitten by a shark (1 in 300 million). My perception of risk was warped wildly by my choice to watch a program that played on human fear for ratings and my actions played out accordingly.


Obviously, learning about the availability heuristic and its contorting effect on risk perception is only worthwhile if we apply it in our lives as leaders. I suggest the following as a jumping off point:

Be an informed viewer – When you do choose to watch TV, grab a paper and pencil and make a note of every time fear-based, sensational, or cliffhanger (e.g., “Could your dinner kill you? Find out at 10!”) techniques are used to drive ratings and grab your attention. Television can be a valuable source of information, but should be watched with a critical eye.

Become a student – Do not rely solely on your preferred talking head or pet network to provide 100% of your decision-making data. Consult people of various dispositions, political leanings, and views on the economy. Seek out a diversity of opinions among team members and media and examine the assumptions underlying their various prognostications.

Source: http://incblot.org/uncategorized/leadership-fail/

Leave a comment

Filed under Articles