Cruise lines, US Coast Guard hold emergency exercise in Freeport

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FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, cruise line industry, emergency response teams and key Bahamas government officials participated in the Black Swan Exercise, April 2 – 4, 2013.

The three-day exercise, designed to better understand each agencies’ capabilities and concerns during a maritime mass rescue event, involved testing emergency procedures, search and rescue coordination, abandon ship process and accountability of passengers and crew, and landing site management and medical surge procedures.

One of the National Emergency Management Agency’s objectives was to conduct an exercise in Grand Bahama to ensure that the local assets were further strengthened in managing an event. The local Emergency Operations Centre was fully activated to determine the ability of the personnel to assess events and make sure corrective measures are carried out.

“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 US Coast Guard and the US Coast Guard air assets, which medically evacuated persons for care and attention,” said Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell.

Coast Guard crews involved in the exercise included members aboard the Coast Guard Cutters Joshua Appleby, Tarpon and Diamondback. Crewmembers from the Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) and Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) also participated in the exercise.

Cruise line assets involved in the exercise were Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Sea and Norwegian Sky, both of which were utilized for an evacuation drill of passengers and tendering to port. Carnival Cruise Line provided family guest care facilities and Norwegian Cruise Lines provided landing site forward teams.

Coast Guardsmen throughout the service train daily in different mission areas to better improve individual skills and proficiency within their designated jobs. Preventing and responding to an emergency offshore or onshore marine incident falls under the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue and environmental protection mission.

“Our engagement with the Bahamian government, cruise line industry and other key partners continues to be highly beneficial,” said Capt. Todd Lutes, 7th Coast Guard District Chief of Incident Management Branch. “We’ve been coordinating these exercises over the past few decades as one of many processes to continually improve maritime safety of passengers and crews. The Coast Guard’s coordination with multiple agencies during the three-day joint exercise was seamless in exercising these procedures.”

“The cruise industry was pleased to take part in this exercise, and CLIA wishes to thank the U.S. Coast Guard, NEMA, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian for their efforts in making the exercise a great success,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO, Cruise Lines International Association. “The exercise further strengthens the cruise industry’s unwavering commitment to emergency preparedness in coordination with the Coast Guard and other government authorities. It also underscores the focus we maintain on our number one priority: the safety and comfort of our guests.”

The Black Swan is an international exercise designed to maintain and build upon a strong track record of continuous improvement in safety. The exercise incorporates interagency and multilateral efforts across different industry and government agencies and the United States Embassy in Nassau.

Approximately 200 personnel participated including 137 volunteers participated in the Black Swan exercise. The majority of these people were members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.