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Modeling the Impact of Complex, Multi-Vector Disruptions to the Marine Transportation System (MCAT)

The Marine Transportation System (MTS) is a vital part of the nation’s supply chain. The vast majority of U.S. overseas trade is carried by the MTS and its operation plays a major role in the nation’s GDP and overall prosperity. An efficient MTS reduces congestion in ports, railways, and roadways, reduces costs to consumers and business owners, and promotes homeland and national security.

Although robust and resilient in many ways, the MTS is also vulnerable to many types of disruptions. While the MTS can generally overcome any single disruption with limited cascading impacts, the impact of multiple disturbances can overwhelm it. Most recently, COVID and other events resulted in larger and more persistent supply-chain impacts than many stakeholders expected.


This research will develop a framework to describe and estimate the consequences of multiple, complex disruptions to the MTS. The framework will analyze the likely impact of different combinations of individual disruptions, including natural disasters and climate change; security events including cyber, accidents and marine casualties; and social/political disruptions. Data and insights will be collected from knowledge exchange with government and private sector port stakeholders. A computable general equilibrium (CGE) model linking the US and its trading partners will be used to estimate the economic consequences of and resilience to various threat combinations. The CGE model will be used to perform numerous simulations of consequences associated with various combinations of shocks and parameter values. The results will then be converted to a reduced-form set of equations using regression analysis. This will enable us to transition a complex system into a user-friendly decision-support tool, MCAT (Modeling the Impact of Complex, Multi-Vector Disruptions to the Marine Transportation System), to improve supply chain risk management at the local, regional, national, and global levels.


The final MCAT decision-support tool will be delivered to the Coast Guard to help it, the private sector, and other stakeholders in supporting the MTS to better understand potential disruptions and their impact. This knowledge will help with strategic planning, resource allocation and countermeasures to prepare for and minimize potential disruptions in the MTS.

Research Leadership Team 

Principal Investigators: Fred Roberts, Rutgers University
Adam Rose, University of Southern California

Economic analysis


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The CAOE is committed to developing innovative tools and techniques to safeguard our homeland from potential threats and vulnerabilities.