VRAKA—A Probabilistic Risk Assessment Method for Potentially Polluting Shipwrecks
Journal article, 2016

Shipwrecks around the world contain unknown volumes of hazardous substances which, if discharged, could harm the marine environment. Shipwrecks can deteriorate for a number of reasons, including corrosion and physical impact from trawling and other activities, and the probability of a leakage increases with time. Before deciding on possible mitigation measures, there are currently few comprehensive methods for assessing shipwrecks with respect to pollution risks. A holistic method for estimating environmental risks from shipwrecks should be based on well-established risk assessment methods and should take into account both the probability of discharge and the potential consequences. The purpose of this study was therefore to present a holistic risk assessment method for potentially polluting shipwrecks. The focus is set to developing a method for estimating the environmental consequences of potential discharges of hazardous substances from shipwrecks and to combine this with earlier research on a tool for estimating the probability of discharge of hazardous substances. Risk evaluation should also be included in a full risk assessment and is the subject of further research. The consequence assessment was developed for application in three tiers. In Tier 1, the probability of discharge and possible amount of discharge are compared to other shipwrecks. In Tier 2, a risk matrix, including a classification of potential consequences, is suggested as a basis for assessment and comparison. The most detailed level, Tier 3, is based on advanced tools for oil spill trajectory modeling and sensitivity mapping of the Swedish coast. To illustrate the method an example application on two wrecks is presented. Wreck number 1 present a lower probability of discharge and a lower consequence in a Tier 1 and Tier 3 assessment. For the Tier 2 consequence assessment, the two example wrecks present equal consequence. The tool for estimating the probability of discharge of hazardous substances from shipwrecks, and the approach for consequence estimation, offers a comprehensive method for assessing the risks presented by potentially polluting shipwrecks. The method is known as VRAKA (short for shipwreck risk assessment in Swedish) and provides decision support, facilitating prioritization of risk mitigation measures enabling efficient use of available resources.


Environmental consequence


Risk assessment


Decision support


Hanna Landquist

Chalmers, Shipping and Marine Technology

Lars Rosen

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geology and Geotechnics

Andreas Lindhe

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geology and Geotechnics

Ida-Maja Hassellöv

Chalmers, Shipping and Marine Technology

Frontiers in Environmental Science

2296665X (eISSN)

Vol. 4 49

Areas of Advance


Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences



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