SOP 6: Evacuation and emergency towing
6.1 Situation awareness
The number of persons to be evacuated and the number of injured and/or affected casualties should be clarified in discussions with the master of the Distressed Vessel (DV). The current situation on board and the location of persons in danger are essential information when planning the evacuation process. If persons have partially or totally abandoned the DV, plan actions to recover them from the lifeboats, life rafts and water. The possibility of life rafts launched from the DV drifting to a hazardous atmosphere should be taken into account and prevented. Use the national and/or organisational Mass Rescue Operation (MRO) plans and procedures if applicable.
Consult the master of the DV about the capability of the DV crew to evacuate persons. Find out the capabilities and capacities of the sea and airborne units in the area to evacuate persons from the DV. Evacuation from the DV could be done using helicopters, with the Search and Rescue Unit (SRU) alongside, using rescue craft, tender or lifeboats and life rafts. Find out the need for additional assistance (e.g. SRUs) and the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) on-scene.
6.3 Risk assessment
The safe and executable measures to evacuate persons from the DV, including possible and suggested evacuation routes, should be ensured. The current and predicted situation of the Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) release, results from the measurements, and the HNS impact on rescue personnel and evacuees have to be taken into account (when considering measures of evacuating persons from the DV). Also weather conditions (wind, waves, swell, etc.) have a great impact on the rescue operation, especially for the evacuation process; and in some situations, abandoning the vessel in distress might not be the safest solution due to the HNS situation, sea state, etc.
6.4 Action plan
When preparing the action plan for the evacuation process, consider the possibility of a partial evacuation (e.g. to evacuate all other passengers and crew except those needed for operations on board, or evacuate only injured/affected persons) instead of a total abandoning of the DV (possible MRO), what protective equipment is needed for persons to be evacuated, the need/possibility to use the boarding team or rescue personnel on board the DV to assist in the evacuation (DV crew capabilities), transport possibilities from the DV to the SRU, actions on board the SRU, and transport to the evacuation centre or further medical care. All evacuation measures should be accepted by the master of the DV.
The evacuation action plan should enable:
• Evacuating persons from the DV and/or rescuing them from the water
• Transporting persons to the SRU
• Counting and TRIAGE (sorting and allocation of treatment) of the evacuees
• Sufficient facilities for accommodation, decontamination and emergency medical care
• Connection from the SRU to shore (helicopter/vessel)
• Point of Contact (PoC) ashore to ensure further medical care, e.g. ambulances and hospitals
Depending on the HNS situation, the possibility to evacuate persons from the DV by using manned or unmanned life rafts and lifeboats sent from the SRU should be considered. Applicable (situation-specific, e.g. ignition prevented/ex-protected) rescue craft or tenders can be used if available. Manoeuvring the SRU with the capacity to enter the hazardous atmosphere alongside the DV to evacuate a large number of persons disembarking from the vessel (using possible slides, ladders, gangway, lifeboats, rescue baskets, etc.) can be the only possible option. Use of the helicopters for evacuating persons directly from the DV can often be impossible due to the hazardous atmosphere.
The evacuation process for the affected persons should be organised. When evacuating persons in the HNS area, arrange provision of the protective breathing devices for evacuees, e.g. filtration masks, Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBD) (or similar easy-to-use breathing devices) or Self- Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA). Find out the need for extra- protective clothing or equipment when evacuating persons. To stabilize the condition of the casualties, arrange emergency decontamination procedures and establish decontamination lines for mass decontamination when necessary. Find out HNS-specific procedures for first aid when arranging emergency medical care facilities. Persons confirmed as deceased are left in the hot zone or on board the DV until all other persons have been evacuated.
All evacuated persons – whether injured/ affected or not – should be registered to ensure later retrieval and further necessary medical treatment. This includes:
• Identification and personal information
• Possible find spot
• Possible contamination
• Possible received medical treatment
6.8 Emergency towing
Consider the possibility and/or necessity of shifting the distressed vessel by emergency towing to reduce the impact of HNS or if there is a need to control the drifting or heading of the DV. Consult with the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator (SMC) about a possible safe haven/place of refuge or anchorage in situations where the DV has to be towed to a harbour and the DV or parts of it are contaminated.
The emergency towing preparation procedures on board the SRU should be confirmed. If there is a hazardous atmosphere around the distressed vessel, the SRU-specific pressurization and gas warning system procedures should be performed if not yet completed. Inform the boarding team about the task (if a boarding team is needed). Prepare the SRU-specific emergency towing procedures, and order the appropriate PPE level when working on the deck.
The emergency towing preparation procedures on board the DV should be confirmed as well as guidelines from the DV-specific emergency towing booklet. Find out the DV’s capabilities for emergency towing: available personnel and PPE, ship-specific emergency towing procedure and equipment, capability of using winches and possibilities for the reception and guidance of the boarding team.