The 2nd International Workshop on Risk Governance of the Maritime Global Critical Infrastructure was held in Kyoto in November 2010

The 2nd International Workshop on Risk Governance of Maritime Global Critical Infrastructure co-organized by the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) and Kyoto University was held in Kyoto on 5-6 November 2010. The workshop built upon the work carried out during a 1st Workshop, also held in Kyoto in 2009. The workshops provided a neutral platform for global multi-stakeholder dialogue on the risk governance of maritime global critical infrastructure (MGCI) using the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (hereafter referred to as the Straits) as a case study. The straits of Malacca and Singapore are not only the most important artery in worldwide trade and the major driver of the economy of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore but also a passage of strategic importance and an area of prime ecological interest. As such they constitute a prime example of a maritime global critical infrastructure. Although the straits dispose of a rather complete set of technologies and processes to ensure undisrupted navigation, notably through traffic separation, the geographical constraints of the deep sea channels, the proximity to critical land infrastructure and economic activity give the straits a significant vulnerability to hazards of natural, technical, human or malicious origin.

The two workshops were attended by participants from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, China, India, Canada, and the European Union. Key stakeholders who participated shared their knowledge and concerns from the perspectives of the littoral states (along the Straits), user states, port authorities, and shipping, logistics and insurance companies. The first workshop used the IRGC Risk Governance Framework [IRGC, 2005, 2008] to structure discussions and to identify risk governance issues in the Straits. The second workshop focused analysis on specific scenarios of high impact events that have never been experienced in the Straits of Malacca but are real concerns for all stakeholders to identify risk governance deficits and recommendations.

A scenario-based approach was used and allowed stakeholders to imagine events that would lead to some worst-case outcomes. The scenario development was grounded by expert knowledge and where possible, supported by evidence from current and reputable data sources to ensure that concerns were based as much as possible on factual information. Participants performed an initial impact assessment to evaluate the existing mechanisms in terms of resiliency and coping capacity in responding to events in the imagined scenarios. This assessment exposed risk governance deficits as defined within IRGC’s risk governance framework [IRGC, 2009, 2010].

The scenario-based analyses demonstrated that beyond traditional incidents (e.g. simple collision or sinking) significant unexplored threats and risk cascades, affecting both sea and land, gain from being explored. Given the systems of systems nature of the straits and the multiple stakeholders – from local level to regional straits countries, consideration of a wider scope including the user countries and global – as well as the private sector, international organisations and the population, the scenarios have revealed potential risk governance deficits, in insufficient awareness to new threats, potential lack of early warning, the unequal organisational capacity and the difficulty of dealing with dispersed responsibilities among stakeholders with diverging interests, to cite only a few. There are numerous existing measures such as the Cooperative Mechanism that have proven effective in preventing and mitigating hazards in the straits, notably in the cases of piracy or oil spills. However, some need to be strengthened, particularly, because not all scenarios and new emerging risks are covered, which leads to some major recommendations. Their implementation does not necessarily require the creation of new institutions, but could build on the existing frameworks and organizations. These include:

1) Extend the scope of the existing emergency response system from oil spills to an all hazard approach, with the definition of processes and command chains, including an appropriate joint emergency operations centre performing regular exercises.

2) Develop standard methodologies, tools and procedures for risk assessment of maritime infrastructure and operations, that start with all possible triggering events, notably in terms of security (i.e. man-made attacks, including cyber-security), based on generally accepted frameworks.

3) Put in place a contingency plan in case of closure of the straits, including alternative routes (navigational charts, navigation aids, …)

4) Conduct a comprehensive joint risk governance assessment of the environmental impact of the navigation in the straits with the aim of verifying the appropriateness, consistency and sufficiency of existing policies and their implementation.

5) All these efforts could benefit from an observatory, embedded within some existing institution or potentially the emergency operations centre suggested above, that would act as a neutral platform collecting and evaluating data into an impartial knowledge system and providing advice as a think tank.