The Washington Public Ports Association (WPPA) has adopted a Washington State Port Mutual Aid Agreement that provides the legal framework for ports to request and provide assistance to other ports. “WPPA is pleased to be able to administer this mutual aid agreement on behalf of our member ports,” said Ginger Eagle, Assistant Director for WPPA. “By having the WPPA involved, we can administer the agreements and assist in the coordination of resources when there is a disaster.”
Disasters can happen at any time, and maritime industries and ports are especially vulnerable to disruptions caused by natural and technological disasters. Earthquakes are of special concern, as ports are located close to waterways and on soils that magnify ground shaking due to liquefaction.
To date, ten Washington State ports have agreed to participate in this agreement. The Port Commissions for the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle both acted in the last two weeks to join this mutual aid agreement.
The creation and adoption of the Inter-Port Mutual Aid Agreement was an outgrowth of a Regional Catastrophic Planning Grant administered by the Seattle Office of Emergency Management. Director Barb Graff said, “I am very pleased to see this positive outcome from our work on regional disaster preparedness. The maritime industry is critical to our economic wellbeing and it is heartening to see our larger ports taking advantage of this agreement to become better prepared to assist one another in times of disaster.”
The Center for Regional Disaster Resilience, part of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, was the organization responsible for the coordination and adoption of the agreement. Neil Clement, Emergency Management and Security Officer for the Port of Bellingham, was a key author in the development of the mutual aid agreement’s language.
Ports Participating in the Inter-Port Mutual Aid Agreement:
The Puget Sound ports – Port of Everett, Port of Olympia, Port of Seattle, and Port of Tacoma – collectively represent the third largest port load center in the nation, with Washington State being one of the most trade-dependent states in the United States. These ports are vital to the local, regional, and interstate economies and are critically dependent on electricity, fuel, rail, road transportation assets, and other critical infrastructures that facilitate the movement of passengers and cargo.
The Puget Sound Region experiences significant impacts from natural hazards including floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. There are also numerous technological hazards, including industrial hazardous materials, military hazardous materials, and vulnerable Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR). These hazards are further complicated by human-driven factors such as the potential for terrorist and criminal activity. It is anticipated that given the importance of trade to our economy, a major incident such as an event or terrorist attack in the Pacific Northwest would have a large effect on the flow of commerce. This is based upon the findings published in the 2009 Washington State Hazard Identification and Vulnerability Assessment (HIVA), and given the important role the ports play in our region, state and nationally.
It is expected that commerce in the region and throughout the state would likely grind to a halt following a major incident or event involving an earthquake on one of the Northwest’s major fault systems or a terrorist attack against a single point target or multiple targets of critical infrastructure.
To further address the Port of Tacoma’s interest in an analytically driven exercise supported by realistic simulation, the PSMRT used the results of the Phase I exercises to design and develop an interactive simulation of the economic interdependencies within the regional maritime transportation community. This technology was used as the foundation for the design, development, conduct, and evaluation of a regional discussion-based exercise for Phase II of the exercise program. This exercise was the first of its kind, incorporating regional players with the economic models that focused on the recovery phase of incident management. Integrating advanced modeling and simulation technology into the discussions provided the framework to achieve a common understanding of the need for a sustainable regional recovery program between Puget Sound’s public and private sectors.
The Phase II regional exercise focused on port-wide risk management, mitigation, continuity of operations, and resumption of trade after an earthquake. The exercise used an earthquake scenario that impacted maritime commerce and engaged the private sector, local, state, tribal, and federal governments. The Regional Catastrophic Transportation Disaster Recovery Plan was also exercised with a focus on the identification of interdependencies between industries that centered specifically on disaster recovery, beginning at day 31 post-disaster and continuing out to year five.
Both Phase I and Phase II of the exercise program were very well attended, with representatives from the local, state, tribal, and federal levels of government, along with numerous private sector entities, and port employees.
In the Phase II regional exercise, the participants were split into breakout groups to focus on the geographic region surrounding a specific port. An additional breakout group for representatives of State and Federal entities created an opportunity for discussion of individual department and agency priorities at that level as well as providing a single point of reference for any questions or concerns generated by the local breakouts. In these smaller groups, each port was able to use feedback from the regional simulation to inform their tactical and strategic decisions on specific recovery investments. This allowed the groups to see how their decisions directly affected their port’s financial recovery in near real-time during the exercise. Plenary sessions were used to report out the group work and to view the projected effect each port’s decision made on the region’s economic recovery.
During this phase, the team integrated both the qualitative and quantitative elements. These tools were used to inform the facilitated discussion. With the help of the simulation tools, the participants were able to experience the potential physical, economic, and financial impacts of a catastrophic earthquake and view the results of their recovery planning in a new way. This allowed the participants of the region to expand their knowledge of the potential impacts. These tools also help the participants observe the level of effort that will be required to recover from such a large scale event or disaster. The exercise provided a forum for the ports and the regional stakeholders to build a broader joint understanding of the economic impact of such an event.
Read the full report here.
Areas for Improvement
Participants exhibited impressive momentum and desire to work rapidly to identify key problems that need to be solved and commitment to a timeline to solve the issues and problems. Attendees agreed the exercises were beneficial and the content addressed would assist the ports with reducing future disaster recovery times. Stakeholders agreed they were reminded of the importance of listening to one another and highlighted the value of building relationships. By engaging a broad spectrum of government and private sector participants from across the ports in this exercise program, regional recovery strategies and plans were initiated. As the contract comes to a close, the participants, the ports, the cities, and the region have all benefited from the recovery exercises by identifying areas for improvements, recognizing their strengths, strengthening their relationships, and gaining a better understanding of options and challenges for port and regional recovery following a significant disaster.
The United States Coast Guard, Transport Canada and PNWER partnered in the development of a framework for swiftly managing traffic in the event of an emergency, with the goal of expediting maritime commerce recovery through regional collaboration between Canada and the United States. The pilot project included the planning and execution of several cross border, multi-sector workshops and a tabletop exercise which led to the development of a protocol framework for regional maritime commerce recovery.
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on February 4, 2011 the Beyond the Border initiative to ensure that the vital economic partnership that joins our two countries continues to be the cornerstone of our economic competitiveness and security as we jointly face the challenges of the 21st century. The Beyond the Border Working Group has proposed the development of a framework for swiftly managing traffic in the event of an emergency, with the goal to expedite maritime commerce recovery through regional collaboration between Canada and the United States. Development of the Framework will be guided by a Pilot Project in British Columbia (BC) Lower Mainland – United States Pacific Northwest region. Specifically, the pilot project will leverage region-based, cross-border maritime resilience and recovery committees. The outcomes of this pilot guided similar work in the Atlantic and Great Lakes regions beginning in 2013.
Read the final report here.