Division of Spill Prevention and Response


Aleutian Island Risk Assessment


The State of Alaska (DEC) and U.S. Coast Guard are working on a multi-stage risk assessment of maritime transportation in the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Archipelago. This effort is being driven by the December 8, 2004 grounding and subsequent oil spill from the M/V Selendang Ayu, along with other marine casualties in the region.

Risk assessment is a systematic approach used to evaluate the level of safety of a complex system and to identify appropriate safety improvements, it is an established engineering discipline and has been used in the maritime industry in the past with varying degrees of success. Both the State of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard have had experience with maritime risk assessments, and both understand the complexity of the problem at hand, as well as the need for a well-designed process that would be ensure a successful outcome.

Consequently, they asked the National Academies to examine the available data and develop a framework and the most appropriate and scientifically rigorous approach possible for the comprehensive risk assessment, and to design the assessment with a logical sequence of building blocks so that it could be conducted in discrete steps.

To conduct this study, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) within the National Academies empaneled the Committee for Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands: A Study to Design a Comprehensive Assessment. The committee included individuals with expertise in risk assessment methods and practices; risk assessment data and analyses; risk analyses, with emphasis on evaluation and prevention of ship accidents; commercial shipping, with emphasis on North Pacific operations; navigation safety and voyage planning; U.S. Coast Guard missions and operations related to waterway management and accident response; environmental protection; and regulatory approaches to ship safety and accident prevent.

The committee met three times. During a multiday meeting (October 29 - November 2, 2007) in Alaska with a site visit to Dutch Harbor, the committee heard from stakeholders and reviewed available data pertinent to its charge. Stakeholders discussed specific hazards presented by Aleutian shipping operations and a range of possible mitigation measures they believed should be considered for implementation.

At it second meeting, held January 7-8, 2008, the committee received presentations on the following topics:
    - Methodologies and approaches in recent and ongoing assessments in the United State (Puget Sound and San Francisco)
    - Methodologies and approaches in recent assessments in Europe
    - Methodologies employed in limited-scope risk analyses