Risk assessment is the process of gathering data and synthesising information to understand the risk of a particular enterprise. It helps evaluate various hazards with the risk in terms of the likelihood of harm and its potential outcome. It is a powerful and flexible tool to identify and control possible undesirable events.

Reports indicate that the cause for many marine accident’s attributes to the lack or inadequacy of risk assessment practices. The International Management Code for the Ship Operations of Ships (ISM Code) provides an international standard for ships’ safe management and operation. The same must be adhered to by shipowners or charterers. They must establish and implement a Safety Management System (SMS) to fulfill the Code’s objectives. Risk assessment is one of the principal guidelines of the Code. The SMS aims to minimise the risks.

Risk Assessment is an aid to the decision-making process. While evaluating options, it is critical to analyse the level of risk introduced with each option. The assessment can address financial troubles, health risks, safety risks, environmental risks and other types of business risks. An appropriate analysis of these risks is critical to good decision-making. The information generated through risk assessment is communicated to the organisation to help parties understand the factors which influenced the decision. Risk Assessment Methods helps prioritise and set objectives for eliminating hazards and reducing risks. Wherever possible, chances are eliminated by selecting and designing facilities, equipment, and procedures—in the absence of risks wholly eliminated. The Company should minimise the risks by physical controls through work systems.

Principles of the Safety Management System:

There are certain principles of the Safety Management System as under:

  • Harbour authority boards are accountable for their duties and powers and measure themselves against nationally agreed standards.
  • Harbour authorities should publish policies plans and periodic reports setting out how they comply with the standards set by the Code.
  • Powers, policies, plans and procedures should be based on a formal assessment of hazards and risks, and harbour authorities should have proper safety management systems.
  • A safety management system aims to ensure that all risks are acceptable and as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).
  • Safety management systems depend upon competence standards applied to all parties involved in managing the port, and those using the port.
  • The port should regularly review (annually as a minimum) the entire risk register.
  • Harbour authorities should consider the publication of Risk Assessments, where appropriate.
  • Harbour authorities should monitor and adopt risk assessment good practice.

Co-Relation between Risk Assessment and Safety Management System:

Risk Assessment includes several activities like Data Gathering, Hazard Identification, Risk Analysis, Assessment and Control and Monitoring. On the other hand, Safety Management System comprises Review, Strategy, Resources, Assessment and Comparison. Safety management systems have to be maintained as a continuous cycle of review and re-assessment. Therefore, risk assessment is recurrent. In short, a risk assessment identifies and defines the risk; whereas, a safety management system manages the risk.

To have a practical Assessment, it is essential to involve those working in and using the port and others in the risk assessment process and subsequent reviews and development, utilising their specialist knowledge and skills.

Harbour authorities must identify hazards and develop or refine procedures and defences to mitigate those risks. It is good practice to establish channels of consultation. Also, especially for those ports with only a regulatory function, it is imperative to involve port users, practitioners, operators, and those interested in the operation of the port, as necessary. They also have a significant contribution to the development and maintenance of the safety management system.

States of Risk Assessment:

A Risk Assessment will involve five stages:

  • Problem identification, scoping and risk assessment design (Data Gathering)
  • Hazard Identification
  • Risk Analysis
  • Assessment of Existing Risk Control Measures
  • Risk Control Measures:

Data Gathering:

While gathering data, it is necessary to place the Company’s culture, policies, procedures and assessing the existing safety management structure.

Hazard Identification:

Hazard identification is a fundamental step in the risk assessment process. This stage should also identify the potential outcomes should the identified events happen. To identify the hazards and subsequently assess the risks, a structured meeting needs to be held during this process involving relevant marine practitioners at all levels.

Risk Analysis:

Hazards need to be prioritised. A method that combines an assessment of the likelihood of a hazardous incident and its potential consequences should be used. Historical Data helps determine the probability of a dangerous incident and its possible effects. Historical Data alone will not provide an accurate assessment of the risk of the current operations, nor will it necessarily reveal an extremely remote event. Conducting evaluation should have the primary reason to identify the outcomes against four criteria, namely:
– life (public safety);
– the environment;
– port and port user operations (business, reputation etc.);
– port and shipping infrastructure (damage).

Assessment of Existing Risk Control Measures:

Risk assessment also includes reviewing the existing hazards and their associated risk control measures. Identifying new risk control measures (or changes to current risk control measures) must be undertaken and considered to fix gaps in existing procedures. The Company can relax the control measures to redesign the resources to meet the new priority. The Company should take adequate care to ensure that any new hazards are identified and managed.

Risk Control Measures:

The Risk Control Measures should consider the relevant legislation, which establishes minimum standards. The aim is to reduce risks as low as reasonably practicable. The preferred hierarchy of risk control principles: is to eliminate risks – by avoiding a hazardous procedure or substituting a less dangerous one; combat risks – by taking protective measures to prevent risk; minimise risk – by suitable systems of working.

Practical Risk Assessment Techniques:

For the risk assessment to be practical, it must correctly and accurately identify all hazards; identify who can be harmed and how; determine the likelihood of the harm arising; quantify the severity of the injury; identify and disregard inconsequential risks; record the significant findings; provide the basis for implementing or improving control measures and provide a basis for regular review and updating.

The assessment of risks should be ‘suitable and sufficient’ not be overcomplicated. The amount of effort involved in an evaluation should depend on the level of risks identified. The assessment should not cover risks that are not reasonably foreseeable. The intention is that the process should be simple but meaningful. The Company must share with the seafarer’s helpful information concerning any significant assessment findings and measures for their protection and subsequent revisions. The Company can undertake to review the risk assessment for reflecting significant changes of equipment or procedure or the specific circumstances.

Triggers for Risk Assessment:

The review of hazards usually takes two forms – proactive and reactive. The proactive approach establishes a structured and regular review of the identified threats. It involves the re-assessment (assessment) of hazards, potential frequency, outcomes and consequent risk and associated risk control measures. The reactive approach prompts a review and identifies new hazards (and changes to existing hazards) following a change in trade or the scope of marine operations in the port or following an incident or near-miss. A systematic review of all the risks needs to be undertaken; higher-ranked risks should be reviewed more frequently than those ranked lower and require more excellent management time and attention.


Safety is the business of everyone concerned in providing and supporting marine operations, whether commercial or leisure and is no longer just the responsibility of the statutory harbour authority or navigational authority.

Assessing risks to help to determine precautions can be qualitative or quantitative. Quantified risk assessment is not a requirement and may not be practicable. Legal limits may apply in some cases. Risk assessments should be done by competent people, especially when choosing appropriate quantitative risk assessment techniques and interpreting results. A positive, analytical approach is needed to enhance marine safety within the port and harbour approaches, including considering past events and accidents; examining potential dangers and the means of avoiding them. The assessment process is continuous so that new hazards and changed risks are adequately identified and addressed. At the very least, a formal review of the whole plan should be conducted at least once every five years.


What Is A Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment is simply an assessment of risk. It is an examination of a task or job that may be carried out on board to identify the presence of hazards that may cause harm to people, property or the environment.

When Should A Risk Assessment Take Place?

Risk assessments should be routinely carried out and be reviewed every year or whenever there are significant changes to either the ship or associated working activities. Risk assessments can be used as a reference document when giving a tool box talk prior to carrying out a task.

What Is Risk?

Risk is a combination of the likelihood of an incident or accident happening and the severity or consequence of the harm or damage.
All individuals perceive risk differently and it is therefore important that the individual carrying out an assessment has sufficient training and guidance to ensure that the task is performed in a consistent and thorough manner.
Risks can be identified by an individual or team who sit down and discuss the possible hazards associated with it.

Within How Many Categories Can The Risk Factor Be Divided?

High Risk:
Moderate Risk:
Low Risk:

When To Carry Out A Risk Assessment?

Risk Assessments are to be conducted whenever an activity which is known to be hazardous or unusual, abnormal activities that require significant departure from normal routines.

What Are The List Of Activities That Require Risk Assessment?

Activities not limited to the following require Risk Assessment:
Hot work in enclosed area, Entry in enclosed spaces, The malfunctioning of critical systems such as steering, inert gas, alarm systems, fire fighting or life saving applicances, working on live electrical circuits, working on piping or systems, sections which contain stored energy critical areas of navigation, sensitive areas and difficult night passages, berthing / mooring / terminal facilities, discovery of cracks, cargo ingress etc, rescue or salvage operations etc.

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