University of Tasmania
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Safe ports in the 21st century : Australian port resilience

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:50 authored by Justice, VR
Australian ports are crucial to the well-being of the national economy and the support of global trade. During 2015-16 Australian ports enabled 1.6 billion tonnes of two-way cargo throughput, representing AU$420 billion in value and approximately 15% by weight of global trade. A prolonged disruption to Australian port operations threatens multiple nations' economies and related supply chains' effectiveness. Port business continuity is important for these reasons, but few studies examine Australian port management within the context of operational vulnerabilities to evolving and unpredictable hazards, and port risk management effectiveness in treating the uncertainties and unknowns of high consequence disruptions. Conventional risk management focuses on known and quantifiable risks, but ports are increasingly challenged by a dynamic and turbulent risk environment associated with unknown, unpredictable hazards and increasingly severe natural disasters. More is required from port decision-makers than conventional risk management strategies and capabilities, and this thesis explores whether a capability gap exists, and what might be required to enable enhanced risk management capabilities. This thesis examines Australian port operational vulnerabilities from a systemic perspective, encompassing multi-layered networks of internal and external stakeholders including those within the port's hinterland, and the interrelated and interdependent port users within Exclusive Economic Zone waters. The primary research question (PRQ) investigates the underlying risk management concepts and practices that might result in safe port outcomes for Australian intermodal shipping operations, namely, how does the port manage risks and consequences arising from low probability/high consequence disruptions? To investigate the PRQ in finer detail, three secondary research questions (SRQs) were developed, as follow: SRQ1: How do ports currently manage risks and unknown unknowns arising from disruptive events? SRQ2: What do ports need to change in their practices to become more resilient? and SRQ3: How might ports operationalise resilience to best manage/overcome risks and unknown unknowns arising from disruptive events? The empirical research evaluates port risk management effectiveness, and preparedness to meet present and near-term future risks. The secondary research questions examine the state of port-centric resilience knowledge and its application, and what influences, drivers and impediments might affect the operationalisation and enhancement of Australian port resilience. A mixed methods research approach is taken in designing and analysing a web-based survey of high level and authoritative Australian senior port managers. Of Australia's 27 State government authorised port management organisations, 54 senior managers holding CEO, Harbourmaster and head of department appointments returned 37 valid responses to 28 primarily closed-ended questions. The survey is limited to Australian port managers because this narrow research focuses upon the port's importance and reliability within the national critical infrastructure system. Questions are logic-grouped across themes broadly encompassing management demographics, port hazards and vulnerabilities, risk management and business continuity, and operationalisation aspects of resilience. Quantitative data analysis is performed to undertake non-parametric tests and descriptive statistics, while qualitative data analysis addresses open-ended survey questions. Data analysis findings confirm from self-reports that Australian port managers are capable when managing high consequences risks of a tangible nature ‚Äö- where physical evidence of both the hazard and the hazard outcomes are clear ‚Äö- but less so when a hazard involves uncertainties and unknowns emanating from technological or human threats. Importantly, some respondents acknowledge significant deficiencies within their business continuity preparations, while others report low levels of disruption management preparedness. The findings suggest that improvement to port risk management and disruption management capabilities is required before managers might effectively direct their attentions towards resilience enhancement. Academically, the research provides a tentatively clearer understanding of the status of Australian port risk management and resilience, and an associated compendium of port risk management and resilience literature. Within a practitioner context, the research provides recommendations towards enhancing port risk management and resilience capabilities and contributes a theoretical basis for advancing management knowledge. Notional performance models are generated to provide potential means of assessing progress towards port risk management and resilience maturity.


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