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UK ports, extreme events and climate change: legislative and adaptive perspectives

UK ports, extreme events and climate change: legislative and adaptive perspectives
UK ports, extreme events and climate change: legislative and adaptive perspectives
UK trade relies heavily on the port sector, with 95% of trade by weight entering the country by ship. Port operations and infrastructure are affected by extreme weather and non-weather events. The severity of risks facing the UK port sector may become more complex with climate change. This thesis aims to assess the vulnerability to, effects of, and responses to extreme weather events affecting UK ports, and to determine how well the port sector is adapting to the future pressures and challenges of climate and climate change.

Historically, publically available records of extreme events that affected UK maritime zones (coastal areas, Exclusive Economic Zone and ports) are limited. A data archaeology study was undertaken by recording reported events from 1950-2014 as a scoping study to assess the importance of extreme events for ports compared to other maritime zones. A new severity scale allowed meaningful comparisons of events through recent decades. Severity of impacts from extreme events changed through time. Decreasing storm surge impacts were associated with improved technologies and behaviours, such as sea defences. Increased frequency of wind storm disruptions were associated with changing technologies, such as high-level cranes. Cautionary behaviours (e.g. pre-emptive port closures) reduced the occurrence of damaging events.

To resolve present-day port disruption, vessel activity data, was analysed for three ports over a two-year study period. Severe individual and cumulative minor events (not considered in the literature) had the most impacts on ports. Daytime events had more severe impacts as they occurred during periods of greater vessel and port activity, highlighting the complex interaction of port activity and extreme events. Ports need to focus resources on preparing for such events.

The climate change preparedness of the entire UK commercial port sector has not previously been considered. Future risk reduction was assessed through analyses of non-statutory Adaptation Reports. Preparedness for extreme weather and climate change was assessed through a questionnaire to all commercial ports. Questionnaire responses determined that ports are not well prepared for climate change, contrary to suggestions by multiple Government reports. There is a perception issue on port sector preparedness between the Government and port decisionmakers, enhanced by the misreporting, through subtle framing, of current adaptation success (such as where normal upgrades are presented as adaptations). Port sector awareness of climate change risks and the number of ports putting in place adaptation measures is presently low, and differs between and within nations. Scottish ports are well prepared for current extreme weather risks, but their complacent perspective could be disadvantageous with climate change.

Many UK ports are unsure how climate change may affect their future operations, and would find additional guidance of great benefit. Port sector adaptation to climate change is limited by poor risk awareness, and a mismatch between port planning and climate change timescales. A three-part port planning timescale has been developed: infrastructure renewal, disaster preparedness, and port and environs planning. To begin filling gaps in port sector climate change preparedness a number of tools and techniques (e.g. adaptation legislation or risk summaries) have been identified. In coming decades the need for effective adaptation will become more pressing as climate change begins to affect their operations. This thesis has analysed port operations and adaptations in the UK and has developed a new framework for future activity.
University of Southampton
Flegg, Esmé Frances
2a96cf53-f805-4514-9224-829c3dd92c0b
Flegg, Esmé Frances
2a96cf53-f805-4514-9224-829c3dd92c0b
Brown, Sally
dd3c5852-78cc-435a-9846-4f3f540f2840

Flegg, Esmé Frances (2018) UK ports, extreme events and climate change: legislative and adaptive perspectives. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 347pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

UK trade relies heavily on the port sector, with 95% of trade by weight entering the country by ship. Port operations and infrastructure are affected by extreme weather and non-weather events. The severity of risks facing the UK port sector may become more complex with climate change. This thesis aims to assess the vulnerability to, effects of, and responses to extreme weather events affecting UK ports, and to determine how well the port sector is adapting to the future pressures and challenges of climate and climate change.

Historically, publically available records of extreme events that affected UK maritime zones (coastal areas, Exclusive Economic Zone and ports) are limited. A data archaeology study was undertaken by recording reported events from 1950-2014 as a scoping study to assess the importance of extreme events for ports compared to other maritime zones. A new severity scale allowed meaningful comparisons of events through recent decades. Severity of impacts from extreme events changed through time. Decreasing storm surge impacts were associated with improved technologies and behaviours, such as sea defences. Increased frequency of wind storm disruptions were associated with changing technologies, such as high-level cranes. Cautionary behaviours (e.g. pre-emptive port closures) reduced the occurrence of damaging events.

To resolve present-day port disruption, vessel activity data, was analysed for three ports over a two-year study period. Severe individual and cumulative minor events (not considered in the literature) had the most impacts on ports. Daytime events had more severe impacts as they occurred during periods of greater vessel and port activity, highlighting the complex interaction of port activity and extreme events. Ports need to focus resources on preparing for such events.

The climate change preparedness of the entire UK commercial port sector has not previously been considered. Future risk reduction was assessed through analyses of non-statutory Adaptation Reports. Preparedness for extreme weather and climate change was assessed through a questionnaire to all commercial ports. Questionnaire responses determined that ports are not well prepared for climate change, contrary to suggestions by multiple Government reports. There is a perception issue on port sector preparedness between the Government and port decisionmakers, enhanced by the misreporting, through subtle framing, of current adaptation success (such as where normal upgrades are presented as adaptations). Port sector awareness of climate change risks and the number of ports putting in place adaptation measures is presently low, and differs between and within nations. Scottish ports are well prepared for current extreme weather risks, but their complacent perspective could be disadvantageous with climate change.

Many UK ports are unsure how climate change may affect their future operations, and would find additional guidance of great benefit. Port sector adaptation to climate change is limited by poor risk awareness, and a mismatch between port planning and climate change timescales. A three-part port planning timescale has been developed: infrastructure renewal, disaster preparedness, and port and environs planning. To begin filling gaps in port sector climate change preparedness a number of tools and techniques (e.g. adaptation legislation or risk summaries) have been identified. In coming decades the need for effective adaptation will become more pressing as climate change begins to affect their operations. This thesis has analysed port operations and adaptations in the UK and has developed a new framework for future activity.

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Published date: September 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 430360
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/430360
PURE UUID: 7ee154a7-f613-495f-826b-0029f820dc1e
ORCID for Esmé Frances Flegg: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6384-4329
ORCID for Sally Brown: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1185-1962

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Date deposited: 26 Apr 2019 16:30
Last modified: 27 Apr 2019 00:33

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Contributors

Author: Esmé Frances Flegg ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Sally Brown ORCID iD

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