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Shared emergency towing experience to be better prepared

Specific proposals for improved emergency and ocean towing were made when experts from the industry assembled for a workshop in Tromsø on 18-19 November.

The 60 or so participants who assembled in Norway’s gateway to the Arctic Ocean covered a broad range of maritime expertise. Hailing from Sweden and Denmark as well as Norway, they represented both government agencies and the private sector. Norwegian Sea Rescue, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and various fields of expertise from the industry in Norway contributed to good technical discussions.

Need to share expertise and experienceKjetil

The workshop was organised by the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) in collaboration with the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (Marintek).

      “Response from the conference demonstrates that a need exists for the exchange of knowledge and experience we can achieve here,” says senior NCA adviser Kjetil Aasebø (right).

Click here to view and download more images from this year’s workshop on emergency and ocean towing.

          “It’s particularly positive that we also had several of the other Nordic countries present this time,” adds scientific adviser Tor Einar Berg at Marintek. “That enhances learning for everyone.”

Acted decisively in stormy weatherRune

The crucial significance of good emergency towing response was made clear when Rune Stenevik (right) shared his experience from the occasion when MV Tove began drifting in strong winds during January 2014.

          A storm was blowing, with gusts up to hurricane force and 11-metre-high waves. The dramatic rescue operation was graphically described for an attentive audience.

          For various reasons, neither private nor government-owned tugs would or could undertake the salvage job. That left Stenevik, as master of the KV Bergen coastguard ship, with few options. A substantial risk existed that MV Tove could collide with an oil installation, and the Norwegian Coast Guard could not stand idly by and witness that.

Important to follow up tv

Stenevik wrote a report after the incident which is now with the Ministry of Defence. His hope is that this incident, and the experience it provided, can help to improve emergency response and routines if similar conditions should arise.Foto: KV Bergen   “I worry that we’ll face the same circumstances again, without anyone having thought them through in advance,” he observes. “That’s why gatherings such as this are important.”

Found lessons atle bakke

Together with another case outlined by the Swedish Coast Guard, Stenevik’s presentation formed the basis for group activity at the workshop.

          Atle Bakke (right), master of the NSO Crusader tug, also took part on the meeting and is clear about which part of the programme made the biggest impression.

          “The Coast Guard’s emergency tow under difficult weather conditions took the biscuit, to put it that way,” he says. “This was an incredible achievement.”

Hoping for more experience transfer

Bakke is convinced about the benefits of the workshop, and that exchanging experience between specialists in the sector is necessary.

          “Hearing a little about everyday life in our neighbouring countries was very good,” he says. “I hope we can establish a form of experience transfer on key emergency towing operations, particularly between Norway and Sweden since we get fairly similar call-outs.”

          He adds that such “sharp-end” jobs are fortunately not that frequent on an annual basis, which means the experience acquired by others can provide useful input.

Some of the topics discussed by the participants which could strengthen vessels involved in emergency towing are presented in the box on the right.


How can operating safety for tug crew be enhanced when conducting an emergency tow?

Key points from discussions in the work groups are listed below.

Ensure good communication – dialogue between bridge and deck as well as with the ship in trouble, plus information from a maritime traffic centre and knowledge which other land-based activities can provide.

Carry out a safe job analysis (SJA) with everyone involved.

Backup – has a third vessel been mobilised to assist if you are unable to carry out the tow?

Training and checking. Important to be familiar with your own equipment on board.

Simulator training, tailored to the vessel you usually work on.

Empower the shipping company and master. Incorporate this in the safety management system.

Be thorough in the planning phase – good work here gives a good result.

Put plans to a small management team before communicating them to the rest of the crew.

Know your crew, train – and be able to improvise.

Organisation of the operation, division of roles in the planning phase, make life easier for operational crew through good support from land.

Include good training in basic maritime education. The latter is often rooted in experience transfer.

Flexible outfitting, opportunities for flexibility – including by the crew.

Clear and decisive leadership.

Introduce systematic experience transfer.

Learn more about the capacity of equipment.

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