Port of Felixstowe case study

The Port of Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port. Using the first three steps of the Adaptation Wizard, the Port management completed a high level climate risk assessment.

Task 1.2: What is the motivation for adapting?
Ports are, by their nature, sensitive to weather variability. Climate change could make existing weather-related risks worse as well as present new risks. Identifying the likely impacts of climate change on the Port will help to protect its strategic and operational objectives.

Potential impacts include operational risks, health and safety risks, and reputational risks.

Task 1.3: What does the Port want to achieve?
a) What is the problem that needs to be addressed? Examples of potential climate change impacts include:

  • power outages from damage to the distribution network
  • changes to sedimentation patterns, affecting navigation routes and requiring changes to maintenance and dredging regimes
  • weather-related disruption to inland distribution or supply chain networks causing knock-on effects within the port
  • losses and stoppages as a result of adverse weather.

Not addressing climate risks could result in more frequent port closures adversely affecting the port’s reputation. However, the port could benefit from being a step ahead of its competitors by addressing climate risks before they become an issue.

b) What does the port want to achieve?
  • To assess the robustness of the port infrastructure to projected future climate impacts.
  • To understand the effects of the future climate on insurance policies, customer confidence and other specific business concerns.
  • To make recommendations on improving climate resilience.
  • To raise awareness of climate change within the organisation.
  • To objectively assess the need to adapt to climate change.
c) What are the criteria against which a successful outcome is judged?
  • Identification of the main climate risks to the port.
  • An understanding of the impacts of climate risks.
  • Climate change is incorporated into the company risk register.
  • A climate adaptation team is established, or an individual is made responsible for keeping up with developments.
d) Who needs to be involved?
  • Health and safety
  • Civil engineering
  • Procurement
  • IT
  • Marine and ports services
  • Commercial
  • Mechanical and electrical engineers
  • Operations

The work was initiated by the Health and Safety Officer and transferred to the Risk Manager, demonstrating the importance of climate adaptation to the whole organisation.

External stakeholders were not involved at this stage but are expected to contribute to the next steps. This would include workers’ representatives, Environment Agency, designers and manufacturers of equipment used within the port.

e) What is the lifetime of the decision likely to be? Decisions must be robust enough to cover the service life of port assets, up to 50–60 years.

  • current climate for contracts and office management decisions
  • 2030s climate for new equipment or technology decisions
  • 2060s climate for decisions on new developments
Task 1.4: What difficulties might be faced?
a) What barriers exist and how might they be overcome? It may be difficult to make a commercial argument for investing in climate adaptation until there is better evidence of, and confidence in, climate change projections.Investing in climate change adaptation can mean taking long-term decisions which don’t fit with investment timeframes of the business.Normal business risks are often regarded as being more urgent than those posed by climate change.While some climate risks are well understood, implementing climate adaptation strategies may not be straightforward. As one individual noted: “We have a pretty good idea about what the impacts are and about what we would need to do to stay in business… but implementing some responses isn’t trivial”.

Step 2: Is the port vulnerable to the current climate?

Task 2.1: How have previous weather events affected the organisation? A workshop session identified critical weather events:

  • high winds
  • fluvial flooding
  • coastal flooding
  • high tides
  • high temperatures
  • snow/ice/frost.

Details of the particular events were captured in Table 2.2 of the Adaptation Wizard:

  • Consequences of each type of weather event.
  • Remedial actions taken as a result.
  • Notes of the effectiveness of remedial actions, to inform future adaptation options.
Task 2.3: Is it possible to identify any critical thresholds?
  1. High level cranes are not allowed to operate at wind speeds of more than 45 mph.
  2. A 1-day work stoppage in the Port would be critical for customers with just-in-time deliveries.
  3. A 3-day closure to the Port would be critical for most customers.
Task 2.4: What confidence is there in this assessment?
Include in Table 2.2
High confidence as the assessment is based on experience and company records.

Step 3: How will the Port be affected by climate change?

Higher sea levels will increase the risk of quays being overtoppedHigher sea levels may reduce the need for dredging within the Port.

Task 3.1: How is the UK’s climate expected to change? Headline messages from the UKCIP02 climate change scenarios used in this assessment, summarised as:

  • hotter, drier summers
  • milder, wetter winters
  • rising sea level
  • more frequent heatwaves
  • heavy downpours of rain
  • likely increased storminess
  • less frequent cold snaps
Task 3.2: What are the key climate impacts for the sector or location? Critical climate impacts for the Port were identified in a participatory workshop and focused on generic business areas: markets, logistics, premises, people, finance and processes.
Threats Opportunities
All investments in the port are long term; retrofitting is expensive. Ensure all developments allow room for future modifications to cope with further climate changes.
Rubber tyred gantries (RTG’s) operate at high heights so are vulnerable to high winds. Establish better processes for monitoring the weather; collaborate with manufacturers to develop more climate-robust designs.
Task 3.3: Are there indirect climate impacts to be consider?
Complete in Table 3.2
  • Changing demands and markets for imported goods.
  • Changes to the availability of energy for shipping possibly leading to a worldwide reduction in shipping.
  • Changes to the supply chain logistics.

Ports revolve around the movement of containers – what’s in each container is not necessarily important, so variance in the type of product being shipped due to changes in climate is unlikely to affect the port. Only where the contents require different handling processes, or more refrigeration and energy use, is the Port likely to be affected.

The need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and use less fossil fuel, and increased demand for locally sourced produce could reduce shipping volumes.

Greater use of rail and coastal shipping in the supply chain could present opportunities for the Port with its rail connections and support for coastal services.

Task 3.4: What risks do these climate impacts present? The risk of each climate impact was assessed at a half day workshop and identified three time scales for the assessment:

  • current climate for contracts and office management decisions
  • 2030s climate for new equipment or technology decisions
  • 2060s climate for decisions on new developments

Each impact was scored for the “likelihood of the impact occurring” and “the magnitude of the impact should it occur”, for each of the 3 timescales. The two scores multiplied together produced a risk rating from 1 to 5 for each impact.

Some adaptation will occur as a matter of course, regardless of a conscious risk assessment (known as autonomous adaptation). The dangers of autonomous adaptation leading to all the risks being “adapted away” were discussed, but it was agreed that it is unrealistic to assume that no adaptation will happen.

There was agreement that adaptation should be incremental, with all assumptions being carefully recorded so that the logic behind the risk rating is transparent.

Discussion resolved the relative significance of risks – some risks are based on safety concerns, some on reputation, others on costs. The “type of consequence” is likely to vary between impacts, and also change with time. For example, wind is currently a risk to cost and reputation, but the reputational risks could become greater as the climate impacts intensify.

A total of 21 risks and 4 opportunities were rated and ranked.

Task 3.5: Will climate risks be more or less important than others?
  1. Off-site power supplies – including high voltage lines – may be disrupted by increased frequency of high winds or other extreme weather.
  2. More crane and pilot stoppages due to increased frequency of extreme weather events.
  3. Increased risk of flooding could put on-site power supplies at risk.
  4. A port closure of more than 3 days, caused by high tides, winds, or heavy downpours of rain.
  5. Overtopping of quays from sea level rise and storm surge could cause high voltage power supplies to cranes to be shut off, resulting in work stoppage.
  6. Consistently higher sea levels would reduce clearance between ships and booms affecting the (un)loading of ships.
Task 3.7: Do you need to find out more? This exercise is a high level qualitative assessment to scope out critical issues for further consideration.

Step 4: Adaptation options

The two main issues for the Port are likely to be riverine flooding and high wind.These are risks that the Port has least control over, but significant benefits could be achieved by addressing current weather variability.No high likelihood / high magnitude risks, or shock outcomes, were identified that needed to be urgently addressed.Capacity Building actions for internal use:

  1. Results of the risk assessment to be circulated internally to raise awareness of climate change, and to support further examination of the main climate risks.
  2. Climate risks to be incorporated into the flood risk management plan and business continuity plan.
  3. An ongoing interest in climate change information is needed to ensure the port is armed with the latest developments and prepared for any changes that might affect the results of this exercise.
  4. The appropriateness of the current high wind threshold and the wind agreement could be examined.
  5. Options for addressing the main risks should be identified, assessed and implemented as appropriate.
  6. The port should consider undertaking a quantitative analysis of key climate risks using the more recent climate projections (UKCP09).