Engineering resilient ports

DHS National Center of Excellence is partnering with the Weirton Area Port Authority to enhance port performance.

Stevens researchers to create a resiliency plan to improve port security, efficiency, and profitability

Stevens Researchers

Artist Rendering of Terminal

In today’s global economy, ports are more important than ever in the supply chain, with approximately 80% of the entire world’s freight transported through waterborne vessels, valued at $1 trillion per year. Maritime terminals serve as a connection between vessels and landside transportation where maintaining a high level of performance is integral not only to the economic wellbeing of the port itself, but the nation as a whole. The maritime supply network is very complex, involving the smooth interaction of various components and disruption at any point in the chain has cascading effects, impeding the flow of cargo and reducing efficiency.

To sustain an acceptable performance level despite disruptions, the Weirton Area Port Authority (WAPA) turned to the experts at Stevens Institute of Technology School of Engineering and Science and Howe School of Technology Management to create a resiliency plan in the event of an emergency. As members of the Executive Committee of the Stevens National Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce, a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, Dr. Thomas Wakeman and Dr. Hady Salloum, in collaboration with Jan Klein, Industry Associate Professor in the Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens, are leading the research team.  

“This partnership exemplifies the critical real-world contributions Stevens researchers are making,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science. “We are excited to work with the Weirton Area Port Authority to modernize ports and prepare for the increasing complexity of port systems.”

Located in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle Waterway, Weirton Area Port Authority is developing the brand new Pike Island Pool Marine Terminal to improve the region’s economy and providing access to global markets. Businesses depend on ports to receive goods to be delivered to distributors and retailers, which are then sold to customers. They send their goods through ports they trust, which have a reliable, efficient, and secure supply chain.

Mr. James Greco

Mr. James Greco

“Our clients must be able to sleep at night knowing their goods will be delivered to their various destinations, quickly and safely,” says Weirton Area Port Authority, Inc. General Manager, Jim Greco. “With major competing ports nearby in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City, we will guarantee our clients the highest level of performance— even in the event of a disruption.”

Often disruptions are caused by natural forces, such as a hurricane or heavy rain, but can also be man-made, such as a labor strike, terrorist attack, or equipment failure. While preventing disruptions is ideal, it is impossible to completely protect the port from all disruptions. Moreover, high levels of protection negatively impact businesses significantly by added delays, greater resource allocation, and increased cost of implementation and maintenance of systems.

To be equipped to respond to the large variety of possible disruptions, the team from Stevens will develop a

Stevens Researchers

Dr. Thomas Wakeman

multi-modal logistics system by identifying the critical infrastructure and analyzing cargo flow and its economic assets. Infrastructure critical to a functioning port include locks, which are used to raise and lower ships and barges between stretches of water of differing levels. Critical infrastructure may include physical structures such as dams, cranes, and surrounding roads, but also include an intelligent transportation system made of telecommunications and software applications to detect threats, re-route shipments, and restore service levels.

“Even though the Panama Canal, home to the most famous port locks in the world, is thousands of miles away, it significantly affects maritime traffic and commerce here on the East coast of the US. The Panama Canal is currently constructing a new set of locks which will double its capacity and bring more cargo to the East coast of the US, directly affecting the cargo volume to and from the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia,” says Dr. Wakeman

The port’s assets include the value of cargo, tax revenue generated from business, and job creation for residents of the area and region. “Once the economic value of the addition of the Weirton Area Port is established, the Stevens team will assess the impact of a myriad of disruptive forces on the port and the investment returns that can be achieved by implementing Stevens recommended resiliency plan,” explains Mr. Klein.

Stevens Researchers

Mr. Jan Klein

The researchers will utilize the Federal Highway Administration‘s Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) to analyze the current cargo capacity and annual throughput. The FAF integrates data from a number of sources to create a comprehensive picture of freight movement by all modes of transportation. Their analysis, along with custom models being developed at Stevens, will also anticipate any future changes in cargo traffic.

The final plan will present a number of options that returns operational capacity back to normal after a disruption with minimum economic impact. Options to be considered include: rerouting cargo to alternative channels, repairing or replacing damaged infrastructure, and restructuring the organizational hierarchy to adjust to developing situations.

Stevens Researchers

Dr. Hady Salloum

“There needs to be a balance between protecting a port and making it resilient to disruptions.  This requires developing a systematic approach dealing with the entire supply chain that includes both water and land side,” says Dr. Hady Salloum. “Also, consequences of disruptions need to be addressed to ensure the highest return from any investment made, whether for protection or resilience.”

The Weirton Area Port Authority was created in 1997 to establish an Inland port in the West Virginia Northern Panhandle. The Weirton Area Port Authority is positioning itself as a Logistics Village and Virtual Port supporting enterprises and shippers that utilize inland transportation systems (water, road, rail, air). The Port’s mission is to connect businesses and communities to regional, federal, and national service networks and be a catalyst for regional economic development.

The Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce at Stevens works to preserve and secure US maritime resources and assets through collaborative knowledge development, innovation, education, and training. Stevens and the University of Hawaii were designated to co-lead the Center of Excellence for Maritime, Island and Remote and Extreme Environment Security by the Department of Homeland Security in 2008. The center conducts research and education to safeguard populations and improve port security.

To learn more about Stevens, the National Center of Excellence for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce and the Howe Institute of Technology, please visit www.stevens.edu, www.stevens.edu/csr, and www.stevens.edu/howe.