Press Notice No: 129-12
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Posted 15:56 GMT
EXERCISE DIAMOND TESTS RESPONSE TO A MAJOR MARITIME INCIDENT
Exercise Diamond, the largest maritime exercise ever held in Northern Ireland, has taken place today within Belfast Lough. The exercise has tested the response by those involved in maritime search, rescue and recovery to a major maritime incident.
The exercise began with the following scenario:
There had been a collision, caused by an electrical fault, between the passenger vessel, MV Lough Explorer which had 120 people on board and a commercial roll on roll off ferry, which had 50 passengers and 23 crew on board. The collision had caused damage to the bow of the Lough Explorer and the hull of the ferry. The Lough Explorer was sinking rapidly and the master of the ship had broadcast a mayday message and given the order to abandon the vessel.
The master of the ferry reported that he could see liferafts from the Lough Explorer and people in the water. His own vessel had begun to list and three trailers on the deck had rolled over, trapping two people. Another trailer had caught fire. The master had requested help with fire fighting, to free the trapped people and to evacuate 50 people from the vessel. A major incident had been declared.
As part of the live exercise, Belfast Coastguard coordinated an air and sea search and rescue operation involving the following:
• Bangor RNLI inshore lifeboat
• Donaghadee RNLI all weather lifeboat
• Larne RNLI all weather lifeboat
• Portpatrick RNLI all weather lifeboat
• Belfast Harbour Pilot Boat
• Rescue helicopter ICN (Irish Coastguard Sikorsky S92N – Dublin)
• Rescue helicopter 177 (Royal Navy Sea King – Prestwick)
The lifeboats searched for the 100 people (simulated by numbered oranges and dummies) who were in the water following the sinking of the Lough Explorer. Twenty people (played by RNLI crew and MOD personnel) were in liferafts and were recovered from the water by the lifeboats. By the end of the exercise 115 people (91 oranges, four dummies and all of the personnel) had been landed ashore at Bangor. Coastguard rescue officers, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and ambulance personnel then brought them ashore before they were transported to a casualty reception centre, which was set up at Bangor Leisure Centre by North Down Borough Council, Southeastern Health Trust and PSNI.
The rescue helicopters evacuated 30 people from the ship and airlifted them to a landing site at Newtownards airfield. They were met there by the Coastguard Rescue Officers, who took them to the Casualty Reception Centre which had been set up at Londonderry Park by Ards Borough Council, Southeastern Health Trust and PSNI. The helicopters also airlifted specialist rescue teams from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service to the ferry, to assist with the emergency onboard.
Sue Todd, The Maritime and Coastguard Agencys Coastal Safety Manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland says:
Today we have shown that Northern Ireland has all of the resources and planning in place to respond, should a major maritime incident arise. Of course, there will be lessons learned and all of the agencies involved will discuss how we can improve. 365 people have taken part in Exercise Diamond today and I would like to thank them all for their willingness and enthusiasm in playing their roles. I would also like to thank Stena Line for providing the ferry and Survitec for providing vital specialist equipment
Diane Poole, Head of PR and Communications at Stena Line said: Stena Line works hard on a daily basis to maintain its excellent safety record. Comprehensive exercises such as Exercise Diamond provide invaluable opportunities for us to put our major incident procedures and planning into operation to ensure that they are more than capable of coping with a major incident. In addition, the exercise will also give us a great opportunity to deploy our procedures in consort with a range of emergency and regulatory organisations. This will help all parties in the future in the unlikely event of an emergency of this nature occurring.
Jennifer Williams of Survitec Group said: The Survitec Group is proud to be part of such an important maritime exercise. We hope that moving forward this will strengthen the emergency search, rescue and recovery procedures we already have in place in Northern Ireland.
Notes to editors:
For further information call the MCA press office on 07703 584024 or 07786 334952.
The RNLI is supplying footage, taken from lifeboat cameras during the exercise. This will be available [later today / tomorrow]. Please contact Nuala McAloon on 0876483547 or Nuala_McAloon@rnli.org.uk
Exercise Diamond is the largest live maritime exercise ever held in Northern Ireland.
An exercise held within the Titanic centenary, Olympic, & Diamond year involving Emergency Services, Agencies and Companies dedicated to saving lives and providing the best possible service.
The following organisations participated in the exercise:
HM Coastguard / Maritime and Coastguard Agency; Royal National Lifeboat Institution; Police Service of Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service; Northern Ireland Ambulance Service; Ministry of Defence (including Royal Airforce); Stena Line; Survitec Group; Irish Coastguard; Northdown and Ards Borough Council; Belfast Harbour.
Posted By: Joanne Groenenberg
For further details contact:
The Maritime & Coastguard Agency Press Office
023 8032 9401