Publication: The Straits Times
Author: Lim Min Zhang

Multi-agency exercise held by port authority to demonstrate readiness of response

A Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) fast craft carried "injured" ship passengers to safety, while a tethered drone buzzed overhead, providing a live feed of the rescue operation.

About 100 people were "rescued" in the multi-agency ferry emergency exercise conducted by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) yesterday to demonstrate their readiness in responding to such incidents.

The half-day exercise involved an unspecified "incident" between a regional ferry and a passenger vessel. It came four days after a United States destroyer collided with an oil tanker in Singapore waters.

Mr Kevin Wong, 48, acting director (operations) and port master at the MPA, said: "Recent incidents have... served as a reminder that we have to be ready to respond to incidents at a moment's notice, and in an efficient manner. Today's exercise is one of those platforms where we continually hone our processes and test our equipment."

The scenario required the evacuation of about 100 passengers, half of whom were designated as "casualties" that needed medical attention.

More than 300 personnel from 18 agencies and companies took part, including representatives from the RSN, the Ministry of Health and Majestic Fast Ferry.

The annual exercise was observed by more than 50 people, including Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min.

Others included personnel from the maritime safety agencies of 12 countries, ferry operators and participants of the fourth port management programme conducted by the MPA Academy.

There were two segments to the exercise: a search-and-rescue sea operation at Eastern Anchorage; and attending to rescued people in temporary tents at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. The sea segment included a demonstration on the transfer of passengers onto a life raft as well as a nearby rescue craft and another ferry. A total of 15 vessels were mobilised in the exercise, including an RSN fast craft used to transport "survivors" to land.

New technology employed included the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, or Emily, used to rescue a dummy thrown overboard. It is a remote-controlled, self-propelled life buoy that can support up to six people at a time.

A new application that allows secure communication between the on-scene commander and the incident manager was also tested.

MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said: "Safety remains our key priority. Annually, we conduct ferry evacuation exercises to ensure our ferry operators and various agencies know what to do in an emergency... MPA will continue to work with the maritime community to raise the overall standards of safety in our port."