Skip to main content

A risk index methodology for potentially polluting marine sites


Attempting to assess the risk of a release from a potentially polluting marine site (PPMS) can be a very subjective process. The Marine Site Risk Index (MaSiRI) is designed to provide a more objective approach to this process by adopting a table-based evaluation scheme, while still allowing for the inevitable unknown conditions by including a subjective ‘expert correction’ in a suitably controlled manner. Building on a geographic database of PPMS records, the MaSiRI algorithm applies data filters to remove PPMS records for which it is not applicable and then estimates a basic risk index based on core data that almost all sites would contain. It can then refine the results for those sites that have auxiliary data, varying the assessed risk as appropriate, according to standard rule-sets. A risk level of confidence is computed and adjusted to express dynamic confidence in the risk value (e.g., due to reliance on estimates rather than measured values), and where appropriate an upper and lower bound of risk can be used to assess the range of values associated with an estimated parameter. This information can be visualized by a composite quality symbol proposed here. MaSiRI is demonstrated on three illustrative shipwrecks and then compared against the DEvelopment of European guidelines for Potentially Polluting (DEEPP) project database from the Pelagos Sanctuary in the western Mediterranean. The aggregate results of the comparison are broadly similar to DEEPP, within the limits of the comparison, but provide a more detailed analysis in the case of estimated pollutant volume and ubiquitous assessment of levels of confidence.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  • Alcaro L, Amato E, Cabioch Fh, Farchi C, Gouriou V (2007) DEEPP Project DEvelopment of European guidelines for Potentially Polluting shipwrecks. EU D.G. Environment—Civil Protection Unit, Rome (Italy)/Brest (France)

  • Amato E (2003) An environmental restoration programme 12 year after: the Haven Wreck. In: 9th Information day of CEDRE—the treatment of potentially polluting wrecks, Paris (France), October 6th, 2003, p 17

  • Archer CL, Jacobson MZ (2005) Evaluation of global wind power. J Geophys Res 110(D12110):20

    Google Scholar 

  • Barrett MJ (2011) Potentially polluting shipwrecks. Master Project, Duke University

  • Basta DJ, Kennedy DM (2004) The need for a proactive approach to underwater threats. Mar Technol Soc J 28(3):9–11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bertolini L, Gastaldi M, Pedeferri M, Redaelli E (2002) Prevention of steel corrosion in concrete exposed to seawater with submerged sacrificial anodes. Corros Sci 44(7):1497–1513. doi:10.1016/S0010-938X(01)00168-8

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Castanedo S, Abascal AJ, Medina R, Fernandez F, Liste M, Olabarrieta M (2009) Development of a GIS-based oil spill risk assessment system. In: OCEANS 2009—EUROPE, Bremen (Germany), pp 1–9

  • Cavaleri L (2007) The MEDATLAS wind and wave atlas in the Mediterranean Sea—a combined use of buoy, model and satellite data (abstract only). In: Queffeullou P, Quentel ML (eds) Globwave project workshop, Brest (France), 20–21 Sep 2007, Plouzane (France), 2007. IFREMER, pp 14–15.

  • Etkin DS (2002) Analysis of past marine oil spill rates and trends for future contingency planning. In: 25th Arctic & Marine Oilspill Programme (AMOP) Technical Seminar, Ottawa, ON, Canada. Environment Canada, pp 227–252

  • Fedra K (1998) Integrated risk assessment and management: overview and state of the art. J Hazard Mater 61(1–3):5–22. doi:10.1016/S0304-3894(98)00102-2

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Galt AJ, Payton LD (1999) Development of quantitative methods for spill response planning: a trajectory analysis planner. Spill Sci Technol Bull 5(1):17–28. doi:10.1016/s1353-2561(98)00017-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodchild MF (2010) Whose hand on the tiller? Revisiting “Spatial Statistical Analysis and GIS”. In: Anselin L, Rey SJ (eds) Perspectives on spatial data analysis. Springer, Berlin, pp 49–59

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Hamblin JD (2008) Poison in the well: radioactive waste in the oceans at the dawn of the nuclear age. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick

    Google Scholar 

  • Helton D, Symons L (2012) NOAA’s remediation of underwater legacy environmental threats (RULET) database & wreck oil removal program (WORP). In: Interspill 2012, London, UK

  • Hill FS, Kelley SM (2007) Computer graphics: using OpenGL, 3rd edn. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River

    Google Scholar 

  • Huang IB, Keisler J, Linkov I (2011) Multi-criteria decision analysis in environmental sciences: ten years of applications and trends. Sci Total Environ 409(19):3578–3594. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.06.022

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • ICRAMM-CEDRE (2007) DEvelopment of European guidelines for Potentially Polluting shipwrecks—Proposal. D.G. Environment, Civil Protection Unit

  • ISO (2009) 31000: 2009 risk management–principles and guidelines. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland

  • Kassomenos PA (2004) Risk analysis for environmental hazards: the case of oil spills, in Crete. Glob Nest Int J 6(1):39–51

    Google Scholar 

  • Landquist H, Hassellöv IM, Rosén L, Lindgren JF, Dahllöf I (2013) Evaluating the needs of risk assessment methods of potentially polluting shipwrecks. J Environ Manage 119:85–92. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.12.036

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lehr W, Jones R, Evans M, Simecek-Beatty D, Overstreet R (2002) Revisions of the ADIOS oil spill model. Environ Model Softw 17(2):189–197. doi:10.1016/s1364-8152(01)00064-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lentz S (2004) The response of buoyant coastal plumes to upwelling-favorable winds*. J Phys Oceanogr 34(11):2458–2469. doi:10.1175/JPO2647.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liguria (2008) Caratterizzatione e Progettatione Preliminare e Definitiva della Bonifica del Relitto della VLCC Haven. Liguria Region

  • Lindgren JF, Hassellöv I-M, Dahllöf I (2012) Meiofaunal and bacterial community response to diesel additions in a microcosm study. Mar Pollut Bull 64(3):595–601. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.12.014

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lindström P (2006) Vrak i Skagerrak. Paper presented at the Forum Skagerrak II

  • Linkov I, Sahay S, Kiker G, Bridges T, Seager TP (2005) Multi-criteria decision analysis: a framework for managing contaminated sediments. In: Levner E, Linkov I, Proth J-M (eds) Strategic management of marine ecosystems, vol 50. NATO science series IV: earth and environmental series. Springer, Netherlands, pp 271–297. doi:10.1007/1-4020-3198-x_15

  • Linkov I, Anklam E, Collier Z, DiMase D, Renn O (2014) Risk-based standards: integrating top–down and bottom–up approaches. Environ Syst Decis 34(1):134–137. doi:10.1007/s10669-014-9488-3

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Masetti G (2012) A geo-database for potentially polluting marine sites and associated risk index. Thesis, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping—University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH

  • Masetti G, Calder B (2013) Design of a standardized geo-database for risk monitoring of potentially polluting marine sites. Environ Syst Decis: 1–12. doi:10.1007/s10669-013-9486-x

  • Masetti G, Sacile R, Trucco A (2010) Caratterizzazione remota del fondale marino tramite analisi e mosaicatura del backscatter. In: Atti della 14a Conferenza Nazionale ASITA (9–12 November 2010), Brescia (Italy)

  • Masetti G, Sacile R, Trucco A (2011) Remote characterization of seafloor adjacent to shipwrecks using mosaicking and analysis of backscatter response. Ital J Remote Sens 43(2):77–92. doi:10.5721/ItJRS20114326

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Masetti G, Calder B, Alexander L (2012a) Developing a GIS-database and risk index for potentially polluting marine sites. Paper presented at the Canadian Hydrographic Conference 2012, Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada), May 15–May 17, 2012

  • Masetti G, Calder B, Alexander L (2012b) Potentially polluting marine sites GeoDB: an S-100 geospatial database as an effective contribution to the protection of the marine environment. Int Hydrogr Rev 8:27–40

    Google Scholar 

  • Masetti G, Calder B, Alexander L (2012b) Potentially polluting marine sites GeoDB. Product Specification Proposal Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping—Joint Hydrographic Center, Durham, NH (USA)

  • Melchers RE (2005) The effect of corrosion on the structural reliability of steel offshore structures. Corros Sci 47(10):2391–2410. doi:10.1016/j.corsci.2005.04.004

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Merkhofer M (1986) Comparative analysis of formal decision-making approaches. In: Covello V, Menkes J, Mumpower J (eds) Risk evaluation and management, vol 1. Contemporary issues in risk analysis. Springer, US, pp 183–219. doi:10.1007/978-1-4613-2103-3_7

  • Michel J, Gilbert T, Etkin DS, Urban R (2005) Potentially polluting wrecks in marine waters. Paper presented at the International Oil Spill Conference, Miami (USA)

  • Morton A, Airoldi M, Phillips LD (2009) Nuclear risk management on stage: a decision analysis perspective on the UK’s committee on radioactive waste management. Risk Anal 29(5):764–779. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01192.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • NOAA (2012) General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment (GNOME) Technical Documentation

  • Overfield ML, Symons LC (2009) The use of the RUST database to inventory, monitor, and assess risk from undersea threats. Mar Technol Soc J 43(4):33–40. doi:10.4031/MTSJ.43.4.9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Papadimitrakis J, Psaltaki M, Christolis M, Markatos NC (2006) Simulating the fate of an oil spill near coastal zones: the case of a spill (from a power plant) at the Greek Island of Lesvos. Environ Model Softw 21(2):170–177. doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2004.04.020

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Petersen J, Michel J, Zengel S, White M, Lord C, Plank C (2002) Environmental sensitivity index guidelines. Seattle, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  • Pincinato FL, Riedel PS, Milanelli JCC (2009) Modelling an expert GIS system based on knowledge to evaluate oil spill environmental sensitivity. Ocean Coast Manag 52(9):479–486. doi:10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2009.08.003

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Poinssot C, Gin S (2012) Long-term behavior science: the cornerstone approach for reliably assessing the long-term performance of nuclear waste. J Nucl Mater 420(1–3):182–192. doi:10.1016/j.jnucmat.2011.09.012

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schumacher M (1979) Seawater corrosion handbook. Noyes Data Corp, Park Ridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Sofotassios D, Tzimas G, Tsakalidis A (1997) A GIS-based Framework for oil-spill emergency management in the Mediterranean Sea. In: JEC-GI ‘97, Vienna (Austria), pp 412–422

  • Stolzenbach KD, Madsen OS, Adams EE, Pollack AM, Copper CK (1977) Review and evaluation of basic techniques for predicting the behavior of surface oil slicks. Related Information: Sea Grant Program Report No. MITSG-77-9

  • Symons L (2010) Identification of data gaps and development of research priorities. In: International Corrosion Workshop, Newport News (USA)

  • Tammi I, Kalliola R (2014) Spatial MCDA in marine planning: experiences from the mediterranean and Baltic Seas. Mar Policy 48:73–83. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2014.03.015

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tittensor DP, Mora C, Jetz W, Lotze HK, Ricard D, Berghe EV, Worm B (2010) Global patterns and predictors of marine biodiversity across taxa. Nature 466:1098–1103.

  • Tkalich P, Xiaobo C (2001) Accurate simulation of oil slicks. In: International oil spill conference, Tampa, FL (USA), March 26–29, 2001, pp 1133–1137

  • USEPA (1998) Guidelines for ecological risk assessment. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Download references


The authors would especially like to thank Dr. Alcaro (ISPRA), Dr. Tittensor (UNEP-WCMC) and Dr. Cavaleri (ISMAR) for kindly providing some of the data sources needed for the test database used in this work.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Giuseppe Masetti.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Masetti, G., Calder, B. A risk index methodology for potentially polluting marine sites. Environ Syst Decis 34, 391–405 (2014).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Potentially polluting marine site
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk index
  • Quality symbol