Researchers are helping seaport authorities in two Pacific nations plan for climate change.
Professor Darryn McEvoy, leader of the Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) in RMIT University’s Global Cities Research Institute, said recent trips to Fiji and Papua New Guinea had also showcased the ongoing development of an interactive online tool - Climate Smart Seaports.
The tool, which helps port authorities to factor climate change into their risk management process, provides easy access to relevant climate and non-climate information.
Data includes current and future climate information relating to temperature, rainfall, relative humidity and other important climate variables.
Professor McEvoy said the tool would simplify the complexities of dealing with climate risks due to the uncertainty of the timing and magnitude of projected climate change.
As ports are generally located on the coast they are exposed to changes to sea level and bear the brunt of extreme weather events, such as storms and floods.
"The tool provides a way for seaports to begin a climate risk assessment by helping them to identify where they may be vulnerable to a changing climate in the various elements of the business including the built infrastructure and the operations of a port," he said.
The Fiji and PNG visits were part of a USAID-funded project on climate resilient seaports in the Pacific region.
"Engagement with local experts is a vital part of the research process, both to help frame the problems and identify possible solutions that make sense in the local context," Professor McEvoy said.
In Fiji, the Port of Suva hosted two workshops.
Senior management from Fiji Ports and Ports Terminal Limited attended the first workshop along with key national and sectoral experts, members from the private sector, international development agencies, locally-based academics and non-government organisations.
"Senior management at the port are taking long-term sustainability issues very seriously and their attendance at the Suva workshop highlights the commitment of Fiji Ports in planning for the potential impact of a changing climate," Professor McEvoy said.
The second workshop was restricted to port employees – from port engineers to maintenance personnel and occupational health and safety representatives.
A senior climate officer from the Fiji Meteorological Office, Bipen Prakash, spoke in depth at both workshops about the current climate for Fiji and probable changes.
Dr Jane Mullett, lead researcher on the project, said the developing relationship with the Fiji Meteorological Service was a critical research link.
"Not only has it facilitated data sharing amongst Fiji organisations but it provides the necessary basis for accessing the data needed for the decision-support tool," she said.
"A bonus of the visit was meeting the Fiji statistician who will be a key contact for high quality and trusted non-climate data to populate the tool."
The Climate Smart Seaports tool, which is still under development, is a collaborative initiative between CCAP, the School of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, and the RMIT eResearch unit.
The University of Tasmania has provided extra scientific support.
Dr Mullett and CCAP research officer Alexei Trundle also visited Port Moresby, where they met with Port officials and the Office for Climate Change and Development.
Mr Trundle,said the interactive online tool could integrate data held by the port authorities with reputable climate and statistical information.
The data will cover shipping lanes and supply chains, not just the port precinct.
Professor McEvoy said the seminars provided useful information that would help the RMIT team tailor the prototype tool for local users.
"It was encouraging to see that there was significant interest shown by people from different areas of the port’s operations," he said.
The final Climate Smart Seaports prototype tool will be showcased in Fiji and Papua New Guinea in July.
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