IMRF Chief Executive Bruce Reid writes:
The IMRF attended a Maritime Safety Forum organised by the Maritime and Ports Authority of Singapore in August, facilitating a simulated mass rescue operations (MRO) exercise run by IMRF Associates Transas and the Wavelink Maritime Institute, and running a regional MRO workshop.
Gu Yiming of the IMRF’s Asia-Pacific Regional Centre handled the logistics, and John Geel of IMRF Members the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (KNRM), and an IMRF MRO subject-matter expert, ran the workshop.
The simulation involved a collision between two passenger vessels.
Delegates were able to take part from two responding vessels’ bridges, a patrol boat and a small tanker.
The exercise demonstrated how multiple simulators can be used to train and prepare people for these large scale incidents. It also provided a water based perspective for many of the delegates who have office based roles. Delegates were invited to get involved with communication, navigation and helming the ships.
Navigating waters filled with debris, people and rafts demonstrated the complexity of this sort of accident.
As usual in IMRF’s MRO workshops, a simple tabletop exercise was conducted, with mixed working groups considering a mass rescue scenario based on a fictitious cruise ship bound for Singapore from Hong Kong that gets into difficulty, with the incident escalating to the point that an MRO is required. The exercise aims were to raise awareness of common MRO problems, and potential solutions; to enable discussion of the participating organisations’ MRO response roles and capabilities, and to further inform the IMRF’s MRO project.
The exercise advanced in stages. An initial scenario was presented and the working groups considered a number of questions arising from it.
The scenario was then advanced to the next stage, with further questions and discussion; and so on.Accidents of this kind do unfortunately occur in these waters, and the lively and fully engaged discussion between the organisations attending the workshop – from Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Norway, the Philippines, and Thailand – is likely to lead to improved response in future.
Overall it was agreed that we can, and must, plan for mass rescue operations – and that effective communications at all levels are crucial to the success of those plans.
Response agencies have planned inhouse for the ‘routine’ incident, but also need to work together in preparation for more complex ones.
“In the end, being rescued from a large passenger vessel will always involve improvisation, but the success and effectiveness of this improvisation is determined by thorough planning.”