Over the past 6 years the principal investigators have developed a methodology for assessing the risk associated with maritime transportation. The methodology utilizes dynamic simulation of the maritime transportation system, expert judgment elicitation models and probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) techniques. The approach has proven useful in three major maritime ports in the United States i.e. Port of New Orleans (Mississippi River in Louisiana), Port Valdez (Prince William Sound in Alaska) and Port Seattle (Puget Sound in Washington State). Two of these studies focused on passenger safety, while the other focused on oil transportation risk. The National Research Council in 1998 assessed the methodology and concluded that representation of uncertainty in the maritime risk assessment method is lacking. "The Prince William Sound Risk Assessment is an important step forward in using probabilistic risk assessment methods to assess the safety of transporting oil in large tankers in PWS. Because the data were very limited, the analysis results and the resulting conclusions are not robust and are necessarily uncertain [National Research Council, 1998]."

This NSF project will allow the maritime risk assessment method to live up to its promise by developing a coherent theoretical framework to address uncertainty. The truth is that we are uncertain. Therefore, speaking the truth implies that we express our analysis results in terms of probability curves rather than fixed points estimates. [See, e.g., Kaplan, 1997]. The intellectual merit of the research stems from the development of an overarching Bayesian framework for addressing uncertainty when simulation of systems states is combined with available data and expert judgment to assess risk and risk intervention effectiveness. The broader impact of the proposed work is primarily drawn from its applicability to areas other than maritime accident risk such as e.g. maritime security risk (intentional events as opposed to accidents). The framework and methodologies to be developed will be applicable to other transportation modes, such as aviation or road safety. Aside from aviation security and accident risk, the technique will be directly transferable to the ever-increasing problem of runway incursions as a result of increased traffic congestion at our national airports.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Robert E. O'Connor
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Virginia Commonwealth University
United States
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