By MarEx 2015-04-17 02:30:35
In a maritime environmental emergency having access to accurate, real-time information is vital to mounting an effective response. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) identified the need for a dedicated incident response reconnaissance capability to be deployed to a vessel which is experiencing a hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) incident.
Therefore AMSA, in partnership with Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW), is developing an onboard, at sea HNS incident response reconnaissance capability.
This new capability will see FRNSW (HAZMAT) personnel and an AMSA Maritime Casualty Officer transferred to a ship at sea that is experiencing difficulty with an onboard HNS emergency.
The teams will be ready to deploy rapidly to an incident occurring outside of state or territory waters but within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone and will provide advice back to AMSA and key decision makers so that an appropriate response can be launched.
AMSA Marine Environment General Manager Toby Stone said Australia had an obligation to prepare for and respond to any pollution incident that occurred in its waters.
“During a HNS event on board a vessel it is often too dangerous for the crew to get close enough to provide a proper assessment of the situation. This capability will give incident controllers back onshore the eyes and ears on board a stricken vessel and allow them to mount the most effective response,” Stone said.
In partnership with the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania, a specialized training course has been designed for AMSA and FRNSW team members to familiarize themselves with the unique operating environment of a ship at sea.
AMC course coordinator Anthony Beckett said the HNS Reconnaissance Team Training course gave participants the skills needed to identify, assess and provide advice on incidents such as chemical spills aboard a ship.
“The FRNSW hazardous materials team is already trained in how to deal with these situations on land; we needed to take this existing knowledge and apply it to the maritime environment,” Beckett said.
The course covered an overview of the maritime industry, vessel and cargo observations, sea survival training, practical ship familiarization, boarding exercises, team simulations and exercises using AMC’s training facilities in Launceston and Beauty Point.
“As you can imagine, maneuvering around a vessel in full HAZMAT protective gear can be quite a challenge and the students had the chance to practice methods of boarding a ship in a non-emergency situation using our fleet of training vessels,” Beckett said.
“Responding to an incident at sea adds another level of complexity and being able to run through these scenarios using both real-life and simulated training environments is an invaluable experience.”
FRNSW Specialised Operations Manager Superintendent Paul Bailey said the training provided an extended capability beyond its usual land-based operations.
“It’s an invaluable opportunity to add to FRNSW’s globally recognized skills in HAZMAT and train in the Australian Maritime College’s purpose-built environment,” he said.
AMC Principal Professor Neil Bose said the course was a great example of AMC Search working closely with industry to meet their specific needs.
“We were pleased to have the opportunity to work with AMSA to develop this training course and help build the skills required to support our seafarers and help protect the national marine environment,” he said.
The hazardous and noxious substances response capability operates within the established framework of Australia’s National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies, which is managed by AMSA.