Mayday, Mayday! Maritime disaster simulated in B.C.

United States Coast Guard members were lowered to the deck of B.C. Ferries' Coastal Renaissance. Photo by Corporal Nathan Spence

United States Coast Guard members were lowered to the deck of B.C. Ferries’ Coastal Renaissance. Photo by Corporal Nathan Spence

Lt(N) Melissa J Kia, MARPAC/JTFP Public Affairs ~

On the morning of Oct. 25, B.C. Ferries’ Coastal Renaissance was far outside its usual route as it sailed between Salt Spring and Galiano Islands.

The diversion from its standard trek was part of a multi-agency emergency response training exercise that involved 14 agencies in the region including the Canadian Armed Forces.

Shortly after 8 a.m., residents surrounding the Trincomali Channel could see the beginning of Exercise Salish Sea 17.

The “Mayday” went out over marine traffic services and 97 actors from Joint Task Force (Pacific) (JTFP), representing the ferry’s guests and crew, began their evacuation as sirens blared on board, and a simulated fire erupted on the car decks below.

As the Coastal Renaissance enacted a full passenger evacuation by deploying escape slides and life rafts, JTFP and Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) assets sprang into action by deploying over 15 vessels including the ready duty ship HMCS Regina and an Orca-class patrol training craft from CFB Esquimalt.

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Victoria quickly called in air support from CFB Comox and 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, who launched helicopter and fixed wing aircraft to the aid of the stricken ferry, along with a crew of search and rescue technicians. Assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard came in the form of one of their ships and a Dolphin rescue helicopter to hoist passengers off the ferry’s upper decks. 

Once clear of the ferry, passengers were transported to a staging area on Salt Spring Island. British Columbia Emergency Health Services’ set to work helping the wounded. Teams of paramedics bent to the task of triaging and treating fictional injured, who sported life-like makeup simulating serious injuries and burns from the fire on board. The most severe cases were transported by air to waiting hospital emergency rooms for further medical treatment drills.

Once the search and rescue portions of the exercise were complete, JTFP officially transferred command of operations to the CCG, who led the environmental response on the second day of the exercise.

Day two saw the CCG Ship Bartlett stand in for the Coastal Renaissance as the vessel for the Marine Environmental Response portion of the exercise. Responders practiced how agencies would work together to ensure a coordinated joint response for environmental protection and stewardship following this type of marine emergency.

Exercise Salish Sea 17 was designed to practice the province’s joint ability to provide search and rescue and environmental consequence management to the Province of B.C.’s busy waterways. The knowledge gained from this extensive training will go a long way in helping to increase interoperability, strengthen inter-agency partnerships, and ensure B.C. is ready in the event of a major maritime disaster.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.