Transport Canada's Transportation Assets Risk Assessment (TARA) Initiative in Cap-aux-Meules, Quebec.

Transport Canada’s (TC) Transportation Assets Risk Assessment (TARA) initiative, established in 2017 and running through 2022, seeks to support efforts to help the transport sector adapt and build resilience to climate change by performing high level risk assessment to climate change at key facilities across Atlantic Canada. A consulting team, led by CBCL, conducted risk assessments following Engineers Canada’s Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) protocol that provides a risk assessment framework based on interactions between climate parameters and infrastructure assets and operational components, as well as adjustments tailored to each site. The program was implemented across six ferry terminals in Atlantic Canada:

  • Cap-aux-Meules, Quebec
  • Saint John, New Brunswick
  • Souris, Prince Edward Island
  • Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island
  • Digby, Nova Scotia
  • Caribou, Nova Scotia

The primary objectives of the TARA program include:

  • Identifying key climate change parameters and climate projections for 20, 50, and 100 years as they relate to each facility
  • Identifying key infrastructure risk components at risk of failure, damage, and loss of service and/or deterioration from climate change or extreme weather through the PIEVC protocol.

The recommendation of remedial action plans to inform asset management and funding by transport Canada. Develop recommendations, where practical, around reviews of engineering practices based on lessons learned from the assessment. Six TARA reports have been published to date that outline projected climate risks for 20, 50, and 100 years, results of the risk assessment that identify key infrastructure and operational risks due to climate projections, and recommendations to increase adaptive capacity and resilience.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The Asset Vulnerability to Climate Change Assessment Methodology with PIEVC Protocol follows a five-step process outlining: –

  • Project Definition
  • Data Gathering and Sufficiency
  • A Risk Assessment
  • An Optional Engineering Analysis if required
  • Recommendations and Conclusions

The project definition phase required a general description of the facility and its associated infrastructure assets that included data in relation to:

  • Location
  • Historical climate
  • Purpose and use
  • Age
  • Life cycle
  • Other relevant information

Infrastructure components were divided into two main categories: physical infrastructure, and supporting/operational infrastructure as climate interactions apply to physical assets (e.g. wave action on a breakwater, rainfall on a parking lot, wind against a building, etc.) as well as operations and procedures. Physical infrastructure concerned itself with all essential physical assets of the facilities. This included buildings, wharves, breakwaters, etc. Each facility prepared a list of the primary, essential physical assets, developed and confirmed with TC prior to the risk assessment phase. Supporting and maintenance/operations infrastructure include all the processes and procedures that keep the facility running and includes operations the facility itself was built for. A list of the primary, essential supporting and maintenance/operations assets was developed and confirmed with TC prior to the risk assessment phase. Selection of climate parameters was based primarily on weather phenomena that are known to have an effect on the existing infrastructure and operations of the site and include extreme water levels, wave action, wind, precipitation intensity, freezing rain, snow accumulation, and sea ice. Other parameters, or those deemed to have a secondary impact on infrastructure and operations components included temperature, lightning, acid rain, humidity, air quality, solar radiation, and heating/cooling degree days. These indicators were not formally estimated in the final PIEVC risk assessment but are compiled as an appendix for background information.

Identifying Actions

A risk assessment workshop comprised facility staff, members of TC and CBLC to gather information on infrastructure assets (physical and operational) and to gauge the historical and current issues that climate and adverse weather has on the facilities. A baseline risk matrix was developed to gain an understanding of the historical and present-day issues facing the facility and was populated with the following steps: – Relationships between asset and climate parameter were identified; where applicable, relevant climate parameter thresholds were noted – Probability (P) scores were assigned – Severity (S) scores were assigned – Resultant Risk (R) values were calculated The assigned values of Probability and Severity scores provided the baseline conditions and formed the basis of the finalized risk matrix that included near, middle, and long range climate projections, and provided a framework to identify and prioritize actions. Considered in the risk matrix were several factors as they relate to infrastructure performance and operation. Performance Response Factors examined how exactly the asset is vulnerable and to what extent it affects the overall performance of the facility. Asset – Climate Relationship determined if a specific climate parameter affected the physical or operational asset in any way, and if so, was then considered as part of probability and risk scoring. Probability and Severity Scoring followed a PIEVC Protocol template to gauge climate event probabilities, capture operational concerns and extreme weather events, and to relate service life of assets in question. Probability scoring was utilized to express how likely a climate threshold event is expected to occur near, middle, and long term in relation to baseline (present day) occurrences. Severity scoring incorporated operational experience, owner histories, and professional judgement to assess the consequence of loss in performance or functionality of an infrastructure component if a climate threshold was achieved. These scores, collectively, were used to calculate risk (P x S = R), along all future timelines, and were then plotted along the risk assessment matrix to help prioritize action.


The Risk matrix was populated from the results of the probability and severity scoring workshop and were plotted in a priority map. While each facility had a different set of asset and operational infrastructure to assess, the priority map provided a guide to prioritize risk mitigation measures individually identified in the Asset Action Plans. Asset Action Plans were created to summarize key asset properties, remaining service life, risk scores, as well as recommendations on maintenance, replacement, or service level. Generally, across facilities, the most significant risk to physical assets was sea-level rise mid and long-term (50-100 years). Considering this, and the life cycle of infrastructure, recommendations often consisted of further monitoring of long-term infrastructure as opposed to near term replacement. Though emergency response plans differed across terminals, they were also considered as part of the risk assessment. The risk assessment provided both comments and recommendations to emergency response plans that include general operational and safety considerations, as well as the inclusion of climate related monitoring and updating.

Outcomes and Monitoring Process

The TARA initiative resulted in the completion of six PIEVC Protocol Risk Assessments across Atlantic Canada that integrated a risk-based approach to adaptation planning and asset management. Each document has identified risks to physical infrastructure and operational procedures, climate projections and impacts, future monitoring considerations, and strategies to maintain and replace key assets. Generally, across terminals, are a series of overlapping recommendations. Monitoring of local climate parameters is endorsed, as is the updating of national building code to include the effects of climate change. Low-regret design options that add climate resiliency are also highlighted and consider:

  • Design based on most probable climate conditions
  • Flexibility and/or additional safety factor in the design for alternative course of action or design modification should climate condition deviate from design basis
  • The monitoring of climate condition and projected performance over time
  • Implementation of design and construction modifications in response to observed climactic changes.

Next Steps

To note, as part of the ongoing monitoring process, is expected sea-level rise. The risk assessment predominantly applied medium projected climate estimates, as opposed to high while undertaking the assessment. A large discrepancy, particularly related to sea-level rise, exists between medium and high climate estimates. As sea level rise generally poses the highest risk to infrastructure assets, future monitoring should consider the discrepancy between both medium and high climate projections.