SARex Svalbard – a week of testing Arctic lifesaving appliances

May 24th, 2019

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) this week have been part of cross-sectional group of professionals that have gathered in Svalbard to test the efficiency of lifesaving appliances and to discuss polar survival strategies. Under the scope of SARex Svalbard, a multiple day exercise onboard a Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel KV Svalbard has been organized in Isfjorden, Svalbard with the aim of researching best practices in Arctic search and rescue. 

 AECO’s Marine Operations Agent, Brede Valanes is attending the week’s events as an observerAECO is highly involved in matters of search and rescue and regards the sharing of tools between those involved in Arctic marine operations as vital in safe cruising. 

“Collaboration and joint exercises are of vital importance when researching new ways of ensuring safety in shipping”, says Brede Valanes. 

 The overall goal of the SARex Svalbard project is to increase the possibility and probability to survive long enough to get rescued in an emergency in the polar regions. One of the goals of this week’s activities is to test and evaluate Life Saving Appliances in light of Polar Code requirements. A live exercise simulates a scenario where a group of crew and 12 passengers have to survive in a life raft using varying forms of thermic clothing and other survival gear. 

Collaboration between organizations including the Norwegian Coastguard, the Norwegian Maritime Authorities, Sysselmannan (the Governor of Svalbard), researchers and various industry members at this event gives insights into the challenges connected to evacuations in polar waters. 

The IMO (International Maritime Organization) adopted the Polar Code to enhance work to protect ships and the people aboard them, both seafarers and passengers, in the harsh environment of the waters surrounding the two poles. Following the introduction of the Polar Code has meant that some changes in the criteria of the equipment has been under consideration on board some vessels.  


 Suggested illustration photo 

Photo caption: Helicopter fly by in practice rescue operation  

Photo credit: Brede Valanes 

High resolution illustration image can be downloaded here:  




AECO – Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators
Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators is an international organization for expedition cruise operators and associates in the Arctic, dedicated to managing environmentally friendly, safe and considerate cruise tourism. With close to 70 international members – including 40 vessel operators, owners and management, and 50 expedition cruise vessels that are organized by the association – AECO represent the great majority of these operations in the Arctic. Website: