Disaster plan tested at sea

A CRUISE ship and a container ferry today collided off Felixstowe - with dozens of injured passengers and crew having to be brought ashore by rescue boats and helicopters.

A CRUISE ship and a container ferry today collided off Felixstowe - with dozens of injured passengers and crew having to be brought ashore by rescue boats and helicopters.

Emergency teams swung into action in Suffolk and Essex to deal with the incident four miles off Landguard Point.

But while the drama being played out looked real enough, officials knew it was going to happen - and no-one was injured at all.

In fact, it was a major exercise to test the emergency plan for a serious incident in Harwich harbour with the aim to make it as realistic as possible.


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“For the past two years we have done table top exercises to look at all the issues, check we still have everything in place that we need and update our procedures,” said Felixstowe sector Coastguard Jo Arlow.

“Now we are doing the exercise for real so we can actually see how it works on the ground.”

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The “collision” between the container ship and cruise liner - expected to be simulated by two smaller vessels supplied by Trinity House - was due to take place at 9.30am and the exercise was set to last most of the day.

Casualties, members of the public who volunteered to take part, were being taken off the vessels exactly as they would in a real situation, and being brought ashore by a flotilla of rescue craft and also helicopters.

A Maritime Incident Response Group team from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service was being transported to the incident via RAF helicopter.

Triage nursing staff were waiting on the quayside at the Dock Basin at Felixstowe ready to assess the injuries, give treatment before the patients were whisked off to hospital, or sent to evacuation centres.

While the drama unfolded out at sea, there was a major role, too, for many shore side staff who had to co-ordinate the rescue mission, pollution clean-up, deal with the media, set up hotlines for information for the public and families, and a wide range of other matters connected with a major incident.

Lifeboats, helicopters, WRVS, police, firefighters, ambulance crews, nursing staff from hospitals, coastguards, port authorities, and shipping companies, were among many bodies taking part.

Do you think it is a good idea to hold the emergency exercise for real every few years? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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