This week, the report from the 2019 Joint Arctic Search and Rescue Workshop and Tabletop Exercise was published. The report concludes that expedition cruise ships have robust procedures for dealing with a scenario where passengers become stranded on land. However, the exercise also showed that shared situational understanding and communication with rescue authorities can be improved.
What happens when a group of cruise passengers are prevented from returning to the ship due to sea ice after a small boat excursion? Which resources do field staff have at hand to deal with the situation, and what happens when the situation is further complicated by bad weather and medical issues?
This is the scenario that participants of the Fourth Joint Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) Workshop and Tabletop Exercise where presented with when they gathered in Reykjavik in April 9–10, 2019. The event gathered representatives from the cruise industry, the Arctic SAR community and academia for the fourth year in a row. The exercise is organized by AECO, the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Joint Rescue Coordination Center North-Norway to increase dialogue between cruise operators and the Arctic preparedness and response sector.
The scenario, which was developed by the Canadian Coast Guard, was designed to highlight challenges, constraints and opportunities for passengers and personnel to survive a period of time stranded on land in a remote area away from the expedition cruise vessel and to evaluate and execute options for self and assisted rescue.
The exercise showed that that expedition cruise ships operating in remote areas strive to be self-reliant and are prepared to use skills, training and resources such as survival equipment and shore stranding kits. Discussions highlighted the importance of leadership, keeping up morale and good standard operating procedures. Operators wished to know more about how they can assist the responders, for example with preparing shore-based landing sites for helicopters and doing triage. Rescue authorities emphasized that they want to be notified as early as possible in order to assess the correct level of response. The exercise also showed that rescue authorities and operators need to better understand how the other assesses the seriousness of a given situation.
The next Joint Arctic SAR TTX and workshop will take place April 15 – 16, 2020 in Reykjavik. Program and registration will be made available on AECO’s website in due time.
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