Home Database Adaptation options Enhancing operational safety in offshore and inshore operations
Adaptation option

Enhancing operational safety in offshore and inshore operations

This option includes the adoption of systems and strategies to enhance safety both for offshore activities (navigation, fishing operations) and for inshore operations (ports, processing activities), responding to challenges driven by climate change. This option is especially relevant for the fishing sector, that is considered by FAO as a particularly dangerous activity at the sea, but it is also relevant for other maritime activities such 2as navigation, port operations, aquaculture and offshore platform related activities, since adverse weather events and storms contribute to many maritime accidents.

Sea level rise and increasing storm surge levels especially in the northern Europe (EEA, 2017, Vousdoukas et al., 2016) have being causing damages to several port infrastructures and land-based facilities, including inundation, power supply disruption, work stoppages and port closures. The same events have been threatening crew and passenger safety at sea during navigation and might cause reduced deployment and performance of fishing activity. Moreover, severe and stormy winters are reported to force fishing boats to be stuck in port for long periods to avoid risks for fishermen, with clear economic losses. Many of these impacts are described as relevant at global scale, and at European level (see for among the others the 2018 FAO publication on Impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture, UNCTAD Port Industry Survey on climate change impacts and adaptation, the JRC report on Impacts of climate change on transport).

The fishing industry is already responding to several impacts of climate change with the aim to enhance operational safety, investing in vulnerability reduction to disaster risks. Examples are reported in the first review of climate change adaptation for UK seafood industry and its successive watching briefs progressively updating information and collecting new feedbacks from industry stakeholders. Adaptation strategies tackling safety at sea are also considered in the IFAD Guidance for adaptation and mitigation (2015) and in the Horizon 2020 funded ClimeFish project, aiming to ensure that the increase in seafood production comes in areas and for species where there is a potential for sustainable growth, given the expected changes in climate.

Possible measures for enhancing safety at sea, during offshore operations refer to: (i) adopting improved personal flotation devices (ii) investing in vessel stability and (iv) performing specific training for safety at sea to operators. For fisheries, adaptation could also include raising decks and moving gear, pump and crew operation to the stern of the boat; For onshore operations, adaptation measures enhancing safety of operators include (i) dykes and embankments protecting infrastructures, (ii) establishment of port emergency procedures with dedicated and trained staff, (ii) various actions oriented to increase port resilience and to protect strategic components (e.g. changes of infrastructure design and used material) and (iii) inland relocation of processing sites.

According to the JRC report of impacts of climate change on transport, key adaptation approaches for European seaports include infrastructure elevation to compensate for projected sea levels, construction of storm defences and seaport relocation. These approaches can contribute to increase safety of operators working at sea or at onshore facilities in adverse conditions. Relocation of seaports should be considered only when the seaport is significantly at risk of inundation, being a very expensive solution. Hard coastal defences to protect seaports from flooding (including dikes, seawalls, and breakwaters) should be carefully considered, assessing possible related environmental impacts such as coastal erosion and habitat degradation.

Beyond those above described, other adaptation options can support safety in offshore and inshore operation, including the establishing of monitoring, modelling and forecasting systems and early warning systems that can inform operators in a timely manner of risks from adverse weather. Risk-based zoning and siting, taking into account present and future climate risks can also increase safety at sea, especially for the aquaculture sector. Finally, increasing access to financial services and insurance mechanism can help in boosting business resilience, especially for poor communities.

Additional Details
Reference information

Adaptation Details

IPCC categories

Social: Behavioural, Structural and physical: Engineering and built environment options

Stakeholder participation

Stakeholders involved in enhancing safety in offshore and onshore operations includes fishery and aquaculture agencies, port authorities and public bodies with competence on safety at sea (coastguards) and establishing regulations and standards. Designers and boat-builders have also a role in ensuring safety of vessels and other marine installations, such as fish farms or port structures. A wide participatory approach, involving local communities, is recommended to increase awareness on safety matter. A Holistic approach is especially recommended by FAO, highlighting that safety for fishermen should not be addressed only through government activities but also through bottom-up activities in a coordinated manner.

Success and Limiting Factors

A clear and site specific identification of key climate risks and the understanding of safety consequences are among the main factors that helps in selecting the most proper adaptation measure to improve operational safety. Indeed, common barriers for this adaptation option refer to the need for better evidence and confidence in climate change projections and impacts. Confidence in climate change projection is especially required to properly consider the risks related to climate change among many other risks that affect the sector and to make business to invest in climate change adaptation. Moreover, the long-time frame of climate change projection can be poorly compatible with the shorter investment time-frames of maritime business.

Costs and Benefits

This option include measures that can be implemented with little resource implications (e.g. adoption of basic safety equipment, small adjustments of infrastructure to increase resilience of onshore operations) or with major resource, for example in case of elevation or relocation of processing sites or seaports, that can be very expensive.

Benefits include human safety of fisherman and business operators, and the avoidance of possible economic losses deriving from port closures, infrastructure damages, operation stoppages and fishing vessels stuck in ports.

Since safety at sea is a world-wide issue for all maritime activities, international regulations have been primarily developed by IMO, the International Maritime Organisation, setting global standards for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. A clear example is SOLAS, among the most important treaties dealing with maritime safety.

Safety at sea is a key element of the European maritime transport policy too, with a view to protecting passengers, crew members, marine environment and coastal regions. European legislation incorporate IMO standards and provides additional measure through a wide set of directives and regulations concerning training and qualifications, marine equipment, security on ships and port facilities and passenger ship safety. In particular, the European Union Maritime Security Strategy and its action plan (2014) identified climate change and extreme events among the main threats and risks on the maritime transport system and on maritime infrastructure, highlighting the need of assessing the resilience of the sector to these risks and to take appropriate adaptive actions to mitigate them.

Within the Common Fisheries Policy, the EMMF encourages the safety and improvement of working conditions under the Union Priority 1 and 2 (Promoting environmentally sustainable, resource–efficient, innovative, competitive and knowledge–based fisheries and aquaculture), supporting the investments on board or in individual equipment beyond Union and national law (Art. 32), on infrastructure of fishing ports, auctions halls, landing sites and shelter (Art.43) and in modernisation of aquaculture units (Art.48).

Implementation Time

Simple adaptation measures implemented to enhance safety during fishing activities and navigation can be shortly implemented (1-2 years) while more complex solutions such as elevation/relocation of port infrastructures require longer time for their implementation. Other measures are part of a process of continuous and autonomous adaptation, following the general technological upgrade of systems, and devices.

Life Time

This adaptation option should be regarded as a continuous process, requiring a progressive update of safety systems and procedures and a continuous monitoring of their efficiency

Reference information


FAO, (2018). Impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture. Synthesis of current knowledge, adaptation and mitigation options. FAO, Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical paper. ISSN 2070-7010 627.

Frontier Economics, Irbaris, Ecofys, (2013). Economics of Climate Resilience Natural Environment Theme: Sea Fish CA0401. A report prepared for Defra and the devolved administrations.

Garrett, A., Buckley, P., and Brown, S., (2015). Understanding and responding to climate change in the UK seafood industry: Climate change risk adaptation for wild capture seafood. A Sea fish report to the UK Government under the Climate Change Adaptation Reporting Power.

Published in Climate-ADAPT Mar 17 2020   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Aug 17 2023

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