Youngsters tackle emergency at sea

TWO ferries trying to avoid a small yacht in Harwich Harbour ended up smashing into each other, tipping containers full of hazardous materials into the water.

TWO ferries trying to avoid a small yacht in Harwich Harbour ended up smashing into each other, tipping containers full of hazardous materials into the water.

That was the scene facing more than 100 students as they got to grips with the emergency - a challenge to test their ability to deal with a live and developing situation and get different organisations to work together to tackle the incident.

The horrific collision was purely imaginary, but to the youngsters taking part it was a real situation and they had to work out how to deal with it with the help of experts from shipping, port and other marine industries.

The students - aged 14 and 15, from nine schools, including Felixstowe, Ipswich and east and south Suffolk - were told a Norfolk Lines ro-ro ferry and a China Shipping container vessel had collided as they tried to avoid a meandering yacht, the Suffolk Daydreamer. More than 40 containers were lost overboard, including dangerous cargo.

They were then put into teams, mixing schools together, to work out what to do.

Felixstowe port corporate affairs officer Rachael Jackson said during the day new information about the changing situation in the harbour was given to the groups, presenting them with fresh challenges to overcome.

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“It was purposefully a very challenging scenario, and a very realistic one, too,” she said.

One of the aims of the event - organised by the Port of Felixstowe and Suffolk Education Business Partnership, in conjunction with the Haven Gateway Partnership, at Kesgrave Community Centre - was to encourage the youngsters to think about careers in the shipping and logistics industry.

Chris Lewis, chief executive officer of Hutchison Ports (UK) Limited, which owns the port, said: “It is vital that the ports industry does all it can to attract young people.”

Those taking part included Felixstowe port's emergency services division, marine and port services, and corporate affairs department; Harwich Haven Authority, Johnson Stevens Agencies, Norfolk Line, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, RNLI, and Suffolk County Council emergency planning services.

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