Purpose: Business environments and global transportation system have become more complex than ever due to complexity drivers of industries which create uncertainty and unpredictability to organizations. Like other industries, the maritime business faces different and difficult problems which threaten organizational survival. The ability to cope with those uncertainties, threats and problems shows the resilience ability of organizations that help to survive and prosper. The organizational resilience concept arises as a requirement to deal with problems and uncertainties of business environments which are swiftly changing. This study aims to suggest an organizational framework to show how maritime business organizations as the sea leg of global transportation system can develop resilient organizations via complex adaptive systems (CAS) approach if adequate design features of CAS could be defined and included in organizational properties. Design/methodology/approach: A total of 15 CAS features were identified as the enablers of organizational resilience throughout the literature. An interpretive structural modeling (ISM) approach has been conducted to determine the mutual relation between the CAS features which constitute an organizational framework. These CAS features have been categorized by conducting MICMAC analysis. Findings: This study proposes a framework that identifies CAS features as the enabler of resilient maritime business organizations. The CAS approach offers new managerial toolkit to realize current organizational situations and allows managers to understand that it is difficult to control their system in this dynamic environment where special management practices are required especially in volatile times rather than ordinary times. Also, organizations could not compete as a sole organization but as a web/system of organizations. CAS is more resilient than other systems because resilience is the emergent occurrence of the system formed from nonlinear, dynamic interactions with self-organized agents. Research limitations/implications: The research has some limitations, like organizational resilience studies are in the infant stage and further research into this area should be extended. This study uses the CAS approach to develop organizational resilience. Further studies could use different lenses and contemporary subjects in management field which should also be useful while developing resilience in organizations. This study uses ISM and MICMAC analysis where further studies could use quantitative design and methods like formal concept analysis or the decision making trial and evaluation laboratory to determine the relational weighs of CAS features while developing resilient organizations. Future studies may also focus on different maritime stakeholders like IMO or ILO, maritime agencies, freight forwarders or insurance underwriters regarding developing and enhancing resilience of the maritime system. Practical implications: World trade and transportation systems are getting more uncertain and lean on complex relations where maritime transportation is a “vital backbone” of such operations. But becoming more complex structures leads to vulnerable systems and organizations. Most risk management applications are based on predicting the known risks where many of them are not enough to fight with unknowns. Coping with today's problems are difficult for organizations in any industry. But for maritime business stakeholders who work in such a global web of relations, it is much more challenging. So, stakeholders of the system like forwarders, ports or ship chandlers may easily apply those features to develop resilient organizations too. Legal authorities of the system and rule-makers like local Chambers of Shipping, IMO or Classification societies can benefit from this framework and provide supportive settings to develop system-wide resilient organizations. Social implications: By understanding environmental uncertainty and complexity better than others, organizations become resilient and cope with significant difficulties which make them more competitive as a substantial strategic advantage. Resilient management offers to break down points at the system and shows them ways to restore quickly while transporting goods while traditional risk assessments are not enough. Originality/value: The originality of the study lies in two folds; first of all the key and most used features of CAS is linked to developing resilient maritime organizations and by maritime expert opinions, this study tries to determine which of these CAS features are the most effective to trigger other features to develop organizational resilience in the maritime business. And secondly, the concept of organizational resilience and the CAS approach are not analyzed in depth in the context of maritime business.