When cruise ships get in trouble anywhere close to the United States, government forces from a variety of agencies spring into action. To make sure those efforts are seamlessly coordinated, they practice, drill and practice again as they did in a complex exercise held this week. At stake could be the lives of thousands traveling via cruise ship.
We’ve seen the media accounts of ships without power for one reason or another, drifting for days at sea. It’s a rare occurrence but when it happens, agencies from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Salvation Army all have a role to play. In Operation Black Swan this week, emergency response teams from the cruise industry along with key Bahamas government agencies joined to test the system in place to handle emergencies.
The three-day exercise was designed to better understand the role each agency plays during a maritime mass rescue event. Testing emergency procedures looked deep into the entire process of a would-be catastrophe at sea starting with the actual abandon ship process and the way ships account for passengers and crew. Stretching search and rescue capabilities as if in an actual emergency along with landing site management and medical surge procedures, the results were good.
Coordinated by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the U.S. Coast Guard runs the show, but other agencies play a critical role in handling an emergency.
“The efforts of the local Red Cross and the Salvation Army at the landing site are to be commended. They were able to provide the passengers and support team refreshments at the site. The efforts of the medical teams from the Rand Memorial and the U.S. FAST Team who came to provide assistance to the injured persons are to also be commendable. I am also pleased with the support of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard air assets, which medically evacuated persons for care and attention,” said Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell in a statement.
Just how complicated is the business of rescuing a cruise ship?
The Black Swan exercise included involvement from Royal Caribbean‘s Monarch of the Seas and Norwegian cruise line’s Norwegian Sky, both utilized for an evacuation drill of passengers and tendering to port. Carnival Cruise Line was there providing family guest care facilities and Norwegian provided landing site forward teams.
Coast Guard Cutters Joshua Appleby, Tarpon and Diamondback were fully staffed and on the scene along with crewmembers from the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) and Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) who also participated in the exercise.
While a full blown catastrophe at sea is rare, medical evacuations by the U.S. Coast Guard are not all that uncommon, as we see in this video:
[Photo credit - U.S. Coast Guard]