NMA: Much Polar Survival Equipment and Gear Fall Short

The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) has reported that much of the survival gear and equipment on the market is not good enough to enable people to survive for five days in the Arctic as stipulated by the Polar Code in case they have to abandon ship.

The NMA said in its publication Navigare that much of the gear and equipment did not stand up to the requirements for more than two days.

The findings were based on three Sarex (search and rescue) exercises in Svalbard in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Coming into effect Jan. 1, 2017, while the Polar Code stipulates that gear and equipment must allow people to survive for five days, it does not specify the types or manufacturers of such gear and equipment. The NMA also conceded that it may be difficult to fit survival suites, sleeping bags, tents, etc. in lifeboats or rafts.

Sarex is an ongoing research project conducted by the University of Stavanger (Norway) and this year’s exercise took place in May. Forty people participated, using different gear and equipment. Weather conditions were reported to be “normal” for May.

The NMA said that the participants discovered quickly that some of the gear was totally useless and a fourth of the participants withdrew after one day, the rest lasted for two days before becoming too cold and uncomfortable.

The Polar Code says that those evacuated from a vessel in distress in polar waters should be able to survive in the rescue equipment whether in a lifeboat, life raft or equipment on the ice and/or ashore.

Ove Tobias Gudsmestad, professor at the University of Stavanger and leader of the research project, referred to the shipwreck of the Maksim Gorkiy off Svalbard in 1989 and the sinking of the Explorer in Antarctica in 2007. In both incidents there were no casualties thanks to nearby ships being able to assist.

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