Advisory: ICS Large Scale Rescue Operations at Sea

Advisory: ICS Large Scale Rescue Operations at Sea

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After reading the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) guidance notes of large scale rescue operations at sea, which I think are a very good starting point, there are some concerns which they have raised.

Crews are being asked to administrate such an enormous issue with potentially catastrophic consequences, however most of the crew and officers may not be correctly trained to manage such an incident.

If we look at what level of training the average crew has onboard a standard commercial vessel it is fairly easy to spot the gaps in various areas of skills required to reach a suitable outcome and ensure the safety of all involved in such an event.

It is also important to remember that once you take persons aboard, you are not only responsible for your crew but the rescued party as well; not getting the welfare and management right may be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful rescue.

overcrowded boat
Imagine the bad press and reputational damage that may come from complaints of mistreatment or lack of care whilst aboard. Despite a crews best intentions it is possible that without the correct training, organisation, security, care and management that issues may arise. We must look at training solutions to help our organisations deal with large scale incidents, I would suggest that this should include the following departments as they will almost certainly be involved during such incidents:

CSO / DPA – The CSO / DPA must ensure that security policies include large scale rescue operations and that their crews are adequately trained to deal with such incidents, not only with regards to compliance but in practical terms. Captains will always use CSO’s & DPA’s as the first call looking for advice before conducting a large scale rescue. It is important that any back office support to vessels is correct, legal and supportive throughout the rescue and any sustained operation. Crisis management teams will have to make discussions quickly and efficiently as rescue operations can unfold very fast.

Masters - Managing normal ship operations is already time consuming and stressful if you add the crisis management of a large scale rescue to a Masters routine he may very quickly become overwhelmed, we must therefore ensure that we assist him with the correct training, policies, procedures, and guidelines. If the Master has officers that have been well trained and are proficient, he can delegate duties to them which will make the task more manageable and effective.

Bridge officers – all bridge officers should receive training in security, crisis management / human behaviour, leadership and maybe even bespoke courses to cover large scale rescue operations. The command and management of a team is key to getting the correct outcome when dealing with such large scale operations and tasks. We are expecting more and more from our officers every year with regards to certification, training and compliance. This is becoming time consuming and costly both to the company and the individual. We would suggest that most of the training for topics being discussed can be combined with other modules of the STCW training. Our officers are the key to all our operations and we must invest in them and their training.

General crew – we all know the crew are our work force and will be carrying out the majority of the physical tasks aboard. We must however safeguard them with management, training and equipment suitable for these tasks. If we are asking crews to conduct large scale rescue operations they may well be out of their comfort zones during such operations.

If crews are not properly trained they will not be confident in carrying out their duties and this could be picked up by the rescued group creating a lack of respect and confidence in the crew. Worst case scenario being that the rescued persons see an opportunity for illegal or criminal activity. The more confident your crew are the better the management will be and overall the safety of all involved.

As the ICS have pointed out the rescue will be broken down into a number of phases and it should not be forgotten that the actual rescue is only the first part of the overall salvage management.

This is an excerpt from the original report. Read the full report here

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