Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Spotlight: Symposium investigates energy and maritime risk

Friday, January 18, 2019

The 2017 Maritime Risk Symposium focused on cyber security and the maritime transportation system. Students from the Coast Guard Academy were among the entrants in the student poster contest. This year’s event looks at energy and how it might impact the Marine Transportation system and will be held Nov. 14-16, 2018, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Maritime commerce accounts for $4.6 trillion in annual economic activity – so a disruption to the Marine Transportation System (MTS), natural or manmade, could have a devastating impact on America’s economy and national security, as well as the domestic and global supply chain. As the lead federal agency protecting the MTS and the primary regulator of the maritime shipping industry, the Coast Guard ensures America’s waterways and maritime industry employ innovative systems that ensure America’s competitiveness as a global trading partner.

In addition to the service’s acquisition priorities including assets to perform aids-to-navigation missions and revitalize icebreaking operations, the Coast Guard is partnering with academia, industry and government to provide cutting-edge training, education and awareness to its workforce. To aid those efforts, the Coast Guard Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Program is co-hosting the annual Maritime Risk Symposium with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Academy of Science – Transportation Research Board.

“The Maritime Risk Symposium is the ideal venue for the RDT&E Program to assemble with stakeholders in government, academia and industry and discuss mutually beneficial maritime research focus areas,” said Wendy Chaves, head of the Coast Guard Office of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation. “This year’s focus on energy is of great interest to the Coast Guard as part of our work with the Marine Transportation System.”

The changing energy landscape will affect consumers, producers and transporters of energy. A new energy landscape also means changes to maritime risk, and potential changes to Coast Guard mission execution. This year’s event has three goals:

• Develop a better understanding of how energy is evolving in the maritime industry and how these developments will impact maritime operations
• Explore sufficiency in policy, regulation, human capital, marine spatial planning, response, salvage and other critical issues to ensure an efficient, safe, secure and resilient marine transportation system
• Identify research and development needs and potential academic focus areas related to how the maritime transportation system should respond to the emerging energy landscape

One session will evaluate how evolving global trends in energy use will impact the maritime transportation system. For example, the diminishing use of coal and growth in domestic oil production is altering marine transportation patterns, causing growth in petrochemical facilities along waterfronts, and producing heavier oils that challenge traditional spill removal technologies. Another panel will focus on risk drivers in energy resources and production that have affected marine systems in the past and emerging drivers that could provide either challenges or new pressures on the maritime environment.

Constraints on energy flow and how best to keep supplies moving will be discussed in another session. New sources of energy production and new processes and equipment for storage all drive risks in the maritime environment. Maritime resilience is another panel topic, exploring ways to ensure that maritime infrastructure is able to deliver the necessary services and ensure continuity of operations. Environmental stewardship will also be discussed as it relates to environmental risk and uncertainties of alternative fuels and technologies.

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, commander of Coast Guard 8th District; Richard Balzano, deputy maritime administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration; and Bruce Walker, assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, are among the guest speakers. Retired Coast Guard Vice Adm. Rob Parker returns for his fourth year as master of ceremonies and senior mentor. A poster contest for graduate and undergraduate students brings together students and leaders in maritime.

The symposium also includes a Coast Guard-inspired Project Evergreen that will look at the global energy evolution and the associated risks for the maritime transportation system 20 years into the future. Evergreen events are designed to develop insights into future trends, discontinuities and strategic surprises, and communicate insights to decision makers for informed policy planning.


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