Preparing for an Arctic cruise accident

A large-scale exercise with a maritime scenario will take place in Longyearbyen on October 8; A cruise ship with 200 people on board was shipwrecked off the north coast of Svalbard. There are no roads, huts or other infrastructure nearby and it is imperative that as many people as possible be rescued as quickly as possible. That is the scenario that the governor of Svalbard and a number of other actors face in early October.

“The exercise takes place a little outside of Longyearbyen for practical reasons, but the scenario is still realistic,” said exercise leader and Deputy Governor of Spitsbergen Espen Olsen in a press release.

The exercise is an Arctic Mass Rescue Operation (AMRO) and involves evacuating large numbers of people from a shipwreck. The background to this is the Viking Sky incident off the north-west coast of Norway in March 2019. 1,373 people were on board when the engines of the cruise ship Viking Sky came to a standstill in the notorious Hustadvika area. Around 470 passengers were brought to safety in a massive rescue operation.

“That can also happen in Spitsbergen. We have even greater challenges here. We are far north, we are far from other SAR resources and we have harsh arctic weather conditions, ”says Olsen.

This fall’s large-scale exercise is a continuation of the discussion-based exercise conducted by the Governor of Svalbard and the Norwegian Coastal Authority in Longyearbyen earlier this year. This time the theory is put into practice. A number of actors will take part in the exercise, including; Longyearbyen Red Cross SAR, Air Transport Helicopter Services, the Coast Guard, the Norwegian Coastal Administration, Longyearbyen Local Council, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center North, the Polarsyssel ship and the Governor of Svalbard.

“The entire SAR service and its support functions are trained, from evacuation of the accident site to arrival in Longyearbyen and local follow-up to dispatch to the mainland. There is no other way to test a theory than to put it into practice, ”says Olsen.

The exercise will take place on Friday, October 8th. On the following Saturday, evaluations, debriefings and follow-up work on the experiences made will take place.