In a maritime environmental emergency having access to accurate, real time information is vital to mounting an effective response. AMSA has identified the need for a dedicated incident response reconnaissance capability to be deployed to a vessel which is experiencing a Hazardous and Noxious Substance (HNS) incident at sea.
The National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies (National Plan) is a framework enabling effective response to marine pollution incidents and maritime casualties.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) manages the National Plan, working with State/Northern Territory governments, the shipping, ports, oil, salvage, exploration and chemical industries, and emergency services to maximise Australia's marine pollution response capability.
AMSA Marine Environment General Manager Toby Stone says that while oil spills are the most well-known marine pollution events there are many other potentially dangerous situations covered by the National Plan.
“Australia has an obligation to prepare for and respond to any pollution incident that occurs in our waters and it’s not just oil that poses a threat to the marine environment,” Mr Stone said.
“During a HNS event on-board a vessel it is often too dangerous for the crew to get close enough to provide a proper assessment of the situation.”
“This capability will give incident controllers back on-shore the eyes and ears on-board a stricken vessel and allow them to mount the most effective response.”
A new capability AMSA, in partnership with Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW), is developing an on-board, at sea Hazardous and Noxious Substance (HNS) incident response reconnaissance capability.
This new capability will see FRNSW (HAZMAT) personnel and an AMSA Maritime Casualty Officer transferred to a ship at sea that is experiencing difficulty with an on-board HNS emergency.
The teams will be ready to deploy rapidly to an incident occurring outside of state or territory waters but within Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone and will provide advice back to AMSA and key decision makers so that an appropriate response can be launched.
The team will be capable of 24 hours sustained operation independent of any support provided by the vessel.
“The training will provide FRNSW with an extended capability beyond our usual land-based operations,” said Superintendent Paul Bailey, Manager FRNSW Specialised Operations.
“It’s an invaluable opportunity to add to FRNSW’s globally recognised skills in HAZMAT and train in the Australian Maritime College purpose built environment.”
Training In partnership with the Australian Maritime College (AMC) at the University of Tasmania, a specialised training course has been designed for AMSA and HAZMAT team members to familiarise themselves with the unique operating environment of a ship at sea.
The course will cover:
An overview of the maritime industry HAZMAT Vessel and cargo observations Sea survival training Practical ship familiarisation Boarding exercises Team simulations and exercises
AMC course coordinator Anthony Beckett said the Hazardous and Noxious Substances Reconnaissance Team training course gave participants the skills needed to identify, assess and provide advice on incidents such as chemical spills aboard a ship.
“The HAZMAT team from Fire and Rescue NSW is already trained in how to deal with hazardous materials on land; we needed to take this existing knowledge and apply it to the maritime environment,” Mr Beckett said.
“As you can imagine, manoeuvring around a vessel in full HAZMAT protective gear can be quite a challenge and the students will have the chance to practice methods of boarding a ship in a non-emergency situation using our fleet of training vessels.”