The member countries of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF) are organising an international sea rescue exercise in the sea area outside Uusikaupunki under the leadership of Finland. The objective is to evacuate more than “200 passengers” by helicopter and ship. This joint exercise by the Arctic Coast Guards, Polaris 2019, combines the air-sea rescue equipment of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Russia to practise mass evacuation. In the exercise scenario, Arctia’s icebreaker Fennica will be representing a cruise ship in distress in an Arctic area.
THE EXERCISE SCENARIO: In the Polaris 2019 exercise situation, an explosion takes place in the engine room of a cruise ship operating in the Arctic area, resulting in a fire. Members of the ship’s crew try to extinguish the fire, but the vessel starts to drift. A number of people are injured in the explosion. MRCC Turku receives the ship’s request for assistance. The passenger ship to be rescued is located in the southern part of the Arctic area, and there are no aircrafts or sea-going vessels nearby. MRCC Turku requests assistance from other authorities operating in the Arctic area. The On Scene Coordinator and the Aircraft Coordinator will launch the sea rescue plan focusing on the evacuation of people from the distress vessel and the life-rafts. The Finnish Red Cross will take part in the exercise by setting up an evacuation centre at the Susiluoto Coast Guard Station.
Icebreaker Fennica of Arctia Ltd will take part in the exercise in the capacity of a target ship. Fennica had a target department of just over 200 people, acting as the evacuated passengers. The target personnel consist of volunteers from the Finnish Red Cross.
With the increase in passenger and cargo vessel transport, the likelihood of maritime accidents and environmental disasters is growing further also in the waters around Finland. In March 2018, Arctia’s multipurpose icebreaker Nordica assisted the Finnish Coast Guard in rescue tasks in the Gulf of Finland. Nordica was carrying out icebreaking duties when it received a request from the Finnish Coast Guard to head to the western side of Hogland where a cargo ship had sent a distress alert in the international sea area. At the request of the Finnish Border Guard, Nordica assumed control of the situation at the site of the accident and managed contacts in accordance with the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator’s instructions. A recent example of the needs is the evacuation of the passengers and crew of the cruise liner in distress under difficult conditions off the coast of Norway just over a week ago.
“Accident situations are never desirable, but in the event of one, Arctia’s vessels are able to operate in difficult conditions, providing support for the authorities in icebreaking and other operations. Arctia’s subsidiary Meritaito Ltd has nine fairway vessels in oil spill response standby to combat oil spills in the open sea. Arctia Karhu’s harbour icebreaker Ahto is in oil spill response standby in the Bay of Bothnia, and icebreaker Polaris has in-built oil recovery equipment and emergency towing capacity. It would be sensible to equip more icebreakers for oil spill response in order to safeguard a sufficient level of oil spill preparedness and response in the Gulf of Finland and in the northern part of the Baltic Sea,” says Arctia’s acting President and CEO Kim Höijer.
This is one of the most extensive international sea rescue exercises in Finland and the nearby areas in the past few years. The exercise is extremely significant in the professional sense for Arctia’s personnel: it promotes the crews’ training to respond to real-life situations. We want to offer our crews an opportunity to train through the exercise,” says Chief Security Officer Pia Broumand.
Maritime transport in the Arctic area has increased in the past few years. The Arctic area is an extremely challenging operating environment, and if an accident takes place there, it can take several days for help to arrive. An environmental disaster would concern the people of several coastal states in addition to the delicate environment. Joint exercises are extremely important in order to safeguard maritime safety.
In addition to the Finnish Coast Guard and Arctia, the Polaris 2019 exercise has been enabled by Finnish Customs, Finnpilot and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency. The exercise is part of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum (ACGF), hosted by the Finnish Coast Guard, and the Finnish chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The exercise is part of the social responsibility of the authorities and state-owned companies, and Arctia wants to assume its own share of the effort. It is an honour to be able to contribute to the joint development of maritime safety,” Kim Höijer says.
Further information and interview requests:
Eija Koli, Communications Manager, Arctia Ltd
Tel. +358 40 725 3911