Project Background

Maritime traffic routes in the Aleutians

during the period from August 1, 2009

through November 1, 2009.

Graphic provided by Marine Exchange of Alaska


The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) collaborated on a multi-phase risk assessment of maritime transportation in the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Archipelago. The December 8, 2004 grounding and subsequent oil spill from the M/V Selendang Ayu drove this effort, 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 ADEC and the USCG 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 to ensure a successful outcome. Consequently, in 2007 they asked the National Academies to examine the available data and develop an appropriate framework that includes the most scientifically rigorous approach possible for a comprehensive risk assessment, and to design the assessment with a logical sequence of building blocks so that it could be conducted in discrete steps.


Transportation Research Board Study

To conduct this study, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) within the National Academies empanelled 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 prevention.

The efforts of this committee culminated with the completion of their report titled:  Risk of Vessel Accidents and Spills in the Aleutian Islands.  An electronic copy of the report (Special Report 293) can be found at

Funding the Risk Assessment

On August 14, 2007, following the M/V Selendang Ayu accident investigation, IMC Shipping Company PTE Ltd., the owner of the ship, pled guilty to two counts of illegal discharge and one count of killing migratory birds. Under the plea agreement, IMC is required to pay $3 million to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) “for the purpose of conducting an Aleutian Islands risk assessment of the shipping hazardous for that area as well as projects identified by the risk assessment," (Selendang Ayu Settlement 2007, page 12).

On September 30, 2007, the USCG and NFWF executed a memorandum of agreement establishing the Vessel Source Pollution Prevention and Compliance Fund, under which the Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment was undertaken.

Conducting the Risk Assessment

The TRB recommended a two-phase approach to the Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment: a Preliminary Risk Assessment (Phase A) followed by a Focused Risk Assessment (Phase B). Phase A involved the establishment of a management structure, made up of four groups: a Management Team, an Advisory Panel, a Risk Analysis Team, and a Peer Review Panel. The major work under Phase A included the development of a risk report analyzing the likelihood of spills based on vessel traffic through the Aleutians, then creating a risk matrix to analyze the potential consequences of vessel-source spills, and finally conducting a qualitative assessment and prioritization of risk reduction options. Phase A was complete in 2011.

Phase B included further evaluating and also implementing risk reduction options recommended during Phase A. It resulted in a recommended spill prevention and response system for the region; recommended updates to the Subarea Contingency Plan, including updated Potential Places of Refuge and Geographic Response Strategies; and the development of recommended vessel routing measures and areas to be avoided for submittal to the International Maritime Organiziation. Phase B concluded in 2015.

Contact Us

P.O. Box 175
Seldovia, AK 99663
(907) 234-7821
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