Singapore tests ferry mishap readiness in multi-agency exercise

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) held its annual ferry rescue exercise (FEREX) on August 23 to test Singapore’s operational readiness and responsiveness in the event of a ferry mishap. 

Eight vessels, an RSAF AS332 Super Puma helicopter and around 50 personnel were deployed for the exercise near Marina South Pier. Other agencies and organizations that participated in the exercise included the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF), Singapore Police Force (SPF), Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), and ferry operator Sindo Ferry Pte Ltd. This year’s seaward exercise was scaled down with safe management measures in place, in view of the COVID-19 situation.

The exercise scenario involved a domestic passenger ferry that ran over an underwater object while en-route from Kusu Island to Marina South Pier. The ferry’s hull was severely damaged and started to take in water. Some passengers panicked and jumped overboard. Several passengers were also injured. The master of the ferry sent out a distress call and requested immediate help from MPA.

As part of the exercise, MPA rescued a man-overboard that was simulated by a dummy. To simulate the transfer of passengers, the ferry operator deployed the emergency life raft and the SCDF maneuvered its Rapid Response Fire Vessel close to the passenger ferry. The SPF’s Police Coast Guard cordoned and secured the incident site, while an RSAF AS332 Super Puma helicopter was deployed for the medical evacuation of a critically injured passenger, simulated by a dummy, from the Heavy Rescue Vessel (HRV). 

This year’s exercise also saw MPA harnessing new technologies to enhance the overall situational awareness of agencies and contingency response by responders such as MPA’s Port Inspectors. These included the deployment of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles for remote monitoring including a tethered drone with a longer endurance, and ‘Smart Glasses’ that offered hands-free operation and real-time data connectivity to provide clear and precise communication through a first-person view, and screen annotation capabilities which enhanced situational awareness to better support incident management and response.

S Iswaran, Minister for Transport and Minister-In-Charge of Trade Relations, who was present to observe the exercise, said, “As one of the busiest ports in the world, Singapore is committed to ensuring maritime safety. Safety at sea is a shared responsibility. Our agencies and their partners remain dedicated to working with the maritime community to keep passengers and crew safe. The use of technology such as drones is key in augmenting our capabilities to better respond to any marine incidents.”

Capt Daknash Ganasen, Senior Director of Operations and Marine Services of MPA, said, “The safety of our passengers and the maritime community remains our top priority and we attach great importance to emergency preparedness. This exercise provides us with the opportunity to enhance the coordination and operational readiness in all parties, and develop a better understanding of the resources, capabilities, procedures, and challenges, especially amid the pandemic.”

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