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Results from Virtual Joint Arctic Search and Rescue Exercise Published

The skillsets of expedition staff are key when it comes to establishing a shore camp and evacuating passengers in an abandon-ship scenario, according to the recent Joint Arctic Search and Rescue Tabletop Exercise.

The findings, which were published by the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), the Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre North Norway (JRCC NN), also describe how vessels in distress, vessels of opportunity, search and rescue responders and home offices can work together to use available resources in the best possible way.

This was the fifth so-called table top exercise whereby Arctic expedition cruise industry, search and rescue sector and academia gather and play out a scenario in which an expedition cruise vessel temporarily loses steering and grounds on a submerged shelf in a remote part of the Arctic. As the scenario progressed, the players were challenged to evacuate the unstable ship and establish a beach camp on shore. The report from the exercise highlights lessons learned and opportunities for further collaborations and learning across sectors.

Related Article: Polar Survival Tested in SAREX 3

Groups consisting of SAR responders, rescue coordination staff, ship officers, expedition staff, and the cruise operator home office collaborated to determine the challenges, constraints and opportunities involved in the proposed scenario. The report covers procedures and means of communication, collaboration and coordination, abandon ship procedures, crowd management techniques, efficient use of equipment, survival strategies, camp layout, and much more.

The overall objective is to enhance safety and preparedness in the Arctic maritime domain through strengthened collaboration between the Arctic expedition cruise industry, SAR entities and authorities.

The latest exercise was organized as a virtual event on December 2-3, 2020, gathering nearly 130 participants from across the world. The Joint SAR TTX was attended by 26 AECO members and SAR entities from Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Svalbard, mainland Norway, USA, Finland, UK, and New Zealand. The event was organized under the umbrella of the Arctic and North Atlantic Security and Emergency Preparedness Network (ARCSAR) with funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

SARex3, which was conducted on Svalbard in 2018, also found that muster station leaders and survival commanders were key to an orderly evacuation and maintaining control.  That actual research project, published by the Stavanger University, also found that passengers who are forced to abandon ship will be challenged to meet the five-day polar survival requirements.

Photo shows previous exercise on Svalbad.

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